The Lesson in Ferguson Has Been Useless

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the march for civil rights, which signaled a turning point in African-American history in the United States, Barack Obama went to Selma, to remind America that there is still a long way to go.

The Uprising in Wisconsin

This reference was to the events in Ferguson, to the killing of young Michael Brown last summer, to the uprising of the black community in Missouri, to the Department of Justice’s connection with abuse and violence carried out by the police corps in the small suburb of St. Louis. But not only that.

At the same time that Obama was making his way to Alabama, hundreds of miles away in Wisconsin, another young black man was killed by the police. Paul Robinson, aged 19, was unarmed when Matt Kenny shot him. The officer said he had been attacked. This is the version that is always given.

Paul’s death awakened people’s consciences. His parents and relations protested, as did his friends. Hundreds of people joined them. Two days after being killed, in Madison, the state capital, 2,000 students gathered in the square to call for justice.

Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter was the slogan adopted for this protest. It was the one voiced after the violent uprising in Ferguson, after the peaceful protest marches against the acquittal of the agent who shot Michael Brown, after the spontaneous demonstrations that happened in New York when the policeman who killed Eric Garner last July was exonerated too. Today, after being used for months in so many other American cities, it resounds in Madison as well.

Black Lives Matter. Many Americans have heard it. But not all of them. Perhaps the policeman from Dekalb township near Atlanta hasn’t heard it; the one who was called by residents to an apartment block because a young black man, completely naked, was wandering through the corridors of the building, ringing apartment doorbells.

There was no doubt that he was unarmed. According to the policeman, after staring him straight in the eyes, the boy apparently tried to attack him. It was then that the officer opened fire and killed him. His name was Anthony Hill and he was 27. And he clearly had a mental health disorder.

Anthony is just the latest in a very long list of young African-Americans killed without a real and justifiable motive by a white policeman. The racial tensions that still permeate the United States have focused precisely on these episodes. The uprising following Michael Brown’s death made the public realize just how many episodes there have been in the past that are similar to what happened in Ferguson last August.

Fourteen Black Adolescents Killed in Just a Few Months

Perhaps only a few know, however, that after that tragic episode many others followed, at least 14 black teenagers were killed in analogous circumstances in the following months and at the end of November 2014. Their stories are very similar.

Tamir Rice was 12 and had a toy gun in his hand. He was shot dead one night in November in Cleveland. Cameron Tillman, 14, was killed for the same reason a few months before in Terrebonne, Louisiana. Dillon McGee, from Jackson, Tennessee, died because he suddenly began to run next to a police car.

After the events in Ferguson a sort of social movement began which involved not only African-Americans, but indirectly whites, Hispanics, young and old, men and women. The debate about why Michael Brown was killed led to only one conclusion: racism.

The topic was fully explored in hundreds of television and radio debates, in dozens of articles and analyses. The police were blamed. They defended themselves, saying that they acted legitimately, in self-defense. Barack Obama intervened, as did the protagonists of the black civil rights movement who are still living.

As with the Newtown Massacre

But what happened in the weapons debate after the massacre in Newtown happened in this case, too. After the bloodshed, Obama asked for a crackdown on the free ownership of pistols and shotguns, and asked Congress to intervene. Stances were taken, petitions were signed, pleas were made.

A movement of opinion was born, but, fundamentally, nothing changed. Some states imposed restrictive laws, but for the most part, the freedom to carry weapons remains intact in the USA. With all the — tragic — consequences that come with it. This is why many have said that the lesson in Newtown has all been for nothing.

If you look at the latest events in the news, you could think that the lesson in Ferguson has been for nothing too. Obama is right. There is still a long way to go.

About this publication

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply