The death of Michael Brown is not just a matter of police brutality. There is a more painful background in the United States: The wounds of racial segregation remain open, and the citizens of the country have been unable to close them. It’s because they feel ashamed and guilty because of the past. It’s because the African-American minority has taken advantage of this American sin and for decades has exploited the offenses of the past, both economically and socially, and collected on them with interest.
The indignation that the African-American community in Ferguson, Missouri has shown, although partly justified, has many worrying aspects: the accumulation of police abuse cases and of uncontrolled gang crime (the cause of most of the damages, looting, and vandalism).
We still don’t know, and perhaps will never know, the real context in which the policeman felt obligated to open fire on Michael Brown, but cases like this — in which a police officer has to make a life or death decision in seconds — happen frequently in the United States. It’s a dilemma between respect for authority or lenient treatment of a delinquent that, like Brown, defied the officer, attempted to take his gun and threatened his integrity. Statistically, most of these cases occur against white people, but the most publicized, for obvious reasons, are those against black people.
Let’s remember what happened to Israel Hernandez, an 18-year-old Colombian who died in August 2013, when the Miami Beach police used a taser during his arrest. In that case the police went too far. Such force was not necessary in the capture of a teenager who had only written some graffiti on a wall. The police laughed at him like he was some kind of trophy. And who protested? His family and a small group of friends.
Brown, the teenager from Ferguson, did not have a criminal record but was without a doubt not a well-behaved teen. He was suspected of having violently robbed a box of cigars from a store. When the police located him, he was blocking traffic. He resisted arrest and attacked the police officer, trying to take his gun. An autopsy revealed that Brown had smoked marijuana.
Racial wounds will remain open because it’s convenient for activists and the African-American community to keep them that way, so they can continue to receive the benefits they started to get after the signing of the Civil Rights Act in 1963, which supposedly eradicated racism. White people consider it the most important event of the 20th century, while African-Americans believe that racial differences will always exist. They will never forget.
The Brown case will open the debate as to how much authority the police should have. It would be unfair to society if the African-American community had more rights than the white or Hispanic communities, or any other citizens.
The worst result of this is that minorities become untouchable. Any actions to counteract crime could be considered racist, which gives African-Americans virtual freedom and impunity to do whatever they please.