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Racial Tensions in Ferguson

Racial Tensions in Ferguson

By Kanika Gupta

Edited by Namrata Caleb

Every year, towards the end of December, the widely acclaimed “Time Magazine” confers the title of “Person of the Year” to an individual, an idea or a group that “for better or for worse…has done the most to influence the events of the year.” One of the frontrunners in this year’s poll were the “Ferguson Protestors”. These were individuals from all parts of the United States as well as from abroad, who converged to raise their voice against the “unjust” death of teenager Michael Brown, thereby, questioning the enshrouded prevalence of racial discrimination in the United States.

On August 9, 2014, an 18-year old African-American boy, Michael Brown was shot multiple times by Darren Wilson, a 28-year old white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Brown was walking down the middle of a street, accompanied by his friend Dorian Johnson, when stopped by Wilson, a police officer, and told to walk on the sidewalk. The inspector’s instructions were blatantly dismissed by the pair of friends who continued on their original path. Followed an austere confrontation by Wilson, but things took a turn for the worse and ensued a physical struggle, through the window of the police car, between Brown And Wilson. Shots were fired and at some point, Michael Brown broke away, in an attempt to get away from the scene. At this point, the officer decided to pursue Brown and followed, several more shots that ultimately, led to the demise of the teenager.

There is extensive disagreement regarding the circumstances of the shooting. While some believe that the shooting of Brown was an act of self-defense, the general public has largely regarded the shooting as “murder” of an innocent teenager, who fell prey to racial disparities between the white-dominated police force and majority black-civilians. The global community is largely outraged with the grand jury’s decision not to indict the white officer. The United States witnessed one its largest public unrests in the twenty-first century. People, from all parts of the country, took to the streets in order to protest, carrying hand-held signs stating “Black lives matter”, “Hands up! Dont shoot.” and “I cant breathe” among others. Riots, vandalism, looting, burglary and others forms of violence exhibited by angry protestors led the police forces to employ tear gas and rubber bullets to control the crowds. Several were arrested.

Since the occurrence of the shooting, the Ferguson incident has served as a pivotal moment for racial issues in the United States. What occurred in Ferguson serves as one of the many instances that suggests that men of colour, infact, do suffer from “racism” and “stereotyping” . The incident has, further, raised questions about the strained relationship between law enforcement and the African American community. According to the 2013 Pew Research Centre Survey, seventy per cent of blacks felt that they were treated less fairly than whites when dealing with the police. The rate at which people of colour are sentenced and policed remains significantly higher in comparison to whites, so much so that one in every three black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetime according to the Bureau of Justice. These revelations prove that the seeds of racial discrimination have been sown so deep in the sub-conscious minds of all society– including African Americans, that often, even enlightened egalitarians harbour stubborn prejudices. As opposed to the beliefs of most intellectuals and pseudo intellectuals, racial inequality is not a thing of the past, and all credit to recent events, it has come to stare us in the face.

Kanika Guptais a second year student of Commerce at Lady Shri Ram College, New Delhi. As a core team member at Enactus LSR, she firmlybelieves in social entrepreneurship as a means to bring about a positive change in the world. She is an ardent reader and writer, and has a penchant for expressing herself through paper and pen. Forming an eclectic mix, her subjects of interest include investment management, philosophy, international affairs and modern & contemporary poetry, among others. An adventure seeker at heart, she relishes new experiences and explorations.

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