The disturbances recorded in numerous U.S. cities – after a jury did not find motive to indict a white police officer accused of killing a young black man last August in Ferguson – recreate images and situations that have already been seen: an incident between a white police officer and a young black man who ends up dead, the initial protests and a decision that recognizes that there had been a tragedy but not a homicide – the latter of which ignites another wave of disturbances.
The fact that justice has run its course must be emphasized. The death of Michael Brown was analyzed for three and a half months by a grand jury – made up of nine whites and three blacks – that listened to 60 witnesses, experts and other people involved in the case. In the end, it concluded that there was not sufficient evidence to indict Officer Darren Wilson for having shot the youth. However, the decision left a deeply dissatisfied black community, which interpreted the jury's decision as proof of the community's own powerlessness and took to the streets of this St. Louis suburb and other cities.
Independent of the work of the grand jury, there are underlying problems. The law states that no one can be questioned by the police based only on the color of his or her skin, but statistics often contradict this concept, despite continual promises to fix the situation.
Obama has many open fronts in the final stretch of his term, and another complicated one will open up if what is occurring in Ferguson does not calm down soon. These include the controversies related to immigration reform, the implementation of a new healthcare system model, the showdown with Congress and consequent legislative paralysis and change of direction — and senior officials — in defense policy. Obama is now facing this outbreak, as well as some criticism from the black community for his inaction.
American authorities need to become fully involved in policy to eradicate any and all traces of racial discrimination. It is not about meddling in the work of justice – in the case that Brown continues as an open FBI investigation – but rather that American citizens can trust that the color of their skin does not determine treatment by police officers or by the judicial system. For this, the promise of making the testimonies heard by the grand jury available to the public is both important and welcomed.