Finally, and for now, the waters have calmed down in the city of Ferguson, located in the suburbs of St. Louis, Missouri; I emphasize “for now” because, even though a calm comes after the storm, that does not mean the tempest has left the place. It has only subsided, although opportune conditions still prevail for it to return with even more violence.
Two investigations are being conducted on what really happened when a white police officer shot a black teenager six times in the middle of the street. The Department of Justice is conducting a parallel investigation to those being done by the authorities of St. Louis County. A jury of 12 people, of which only three are black, has been formed to investigate the events.
Truly, in my opinion, there is little to investigate, for I fail to see what type of justification could exist for an armed man to shoot one who is unarmed six times. No matter how sturdy a person might be, if you shoot them in the middle of the leg, that person will be left incapable of being a threat to anyone, so how can it be justified that up to two shots penetrated the teenager’s skull?
In any case, such an investigation is being conducted, but the question is what will happen if the jury reaches a verdict of acquittal and the police officer is found innocent? Those are the existing opportune conditions for the tempest to explode in Ferguson again, and even spread to other U.S. cities. No one knows for sure how long it will take the grand jury to reach a conclusion, but of this I am sure: the violence will return if the police officer is found innocent.
Black communities have a natural and historical distrust of the court system in this country. If the police officer is exonerated, this would not be the first time a jury has reached the same conclusion in similar cases. The fight for the civil rights of black citizens of the U.S. has been long and full of injustice. Long before President Johnson signed the famous Civil Rights Act back in the ’60s, black Americans were treated miserably. Since there was a law against it, they were no longer slaves of the white people, but they were completely discriminated against in jobs, schools, buses, public bathrooms and even in the armed forces.
The act, signed by the president, legally prevented the discrimination of anyone based on the color of their skin, but what is signed on paper is one thing and what is embedded in the people’s consciences is another. At least in the southern states, the evolution in the relations between blacks and whites has been slow, definitely with a lot of progress, but far from ideal.
Black neighborhoods persist, many with the characteristics of genuine ghettos where an air of incredible violence exists. Personally, and thanks to my work with the school system, I worked in some of those neighborhoods in Miami, keeping a close relationship with members of those communities. I came to know them well and from within, established very good friendships with them, listened to their complaints, their distrust and their resentment toward white people. I imagine that, little by little, all those feelings will end, but I fear that, as the song says, “a thousand years or more will have to pass.”
We will have to wait and see what happens when the 12-member jury reaches its conclusions in the case of the Ferguson teenager, but whatever comes to pass, it will still remain to be seen when tragedies like this will cease to occur. In the midst of the murder of the Ferguson teenager, and just a few miles away, two police officers shot another 23-year-old black man to death, also in the middle of the street, who was carrying a knife in his hands.
And, again, I wonder: could the two police officers not have shot him in the arm instead? Could they not have paralyzed him with a taser? Of course they could have, but I reiterate: they are trained not to paralyze, but to kill. Until the police academies no longer train their students in this way, the death of citizens by these law enforcement agencies will continue in saecula, saeculorum.