When Barack Obama won the 2008 presidential election, columnist Thomas Friedman proclaimed in an article that finally the American Civil War had ended. Almost 150 years after the defeat of the slave South to the Union led by Abraham Lincoln, a man of African descent came to the White House. Obama, the son of a black Kenyan and a white Kansas triumphed posing as the post-racial candidate, he should close deep wounds. If an American was president, everything seemed possible.
Events in Ferguson (Missouri), where the death of an unarmed black by shooting of a white police officer has sparked protests, police violence and intimidation, remember that the story -the decades of slavery, segregation, discrimination and marginality is not over. Nearly seven years after arriving at the White House, racial tensions become a political problem of the first order for the president.
Ferguson, along with the first military intervention in Iraq since the withdrawal of 2011, has monopolized the attention of Obama during the summer in Martha ‘s Vineyard (Massachusetts), gives an idea of the severity of the crisis. Obama used yesterday a planned interruption to ship vacation in the White House with the head of the Justice Department, Attorney General Eric Holder. Holder, black as he has strengthened the role of the federal government to a state and local authorities overwhelmed.
The Darren Wilson, the alleged gunman, agent is low with pay and freedom. He has not been charged with any crime.
Race is one of the recurring arguments of the Obama presidency. With reservations, Obama has come to intervene. He did it in 2009, to convene a meeting at the White House from his friend, the black Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates and James Crowley, a white police officer who had stopped him in his own house. And in 2012, the death of teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida and the exoneration of his assailant, George Zimmerman, led President to intervene in the debate and declare that Martin could be his son.
This time, Holder sent to Missouri researchers at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to clarify the circumstances of the death of Michael Brown, who was 19 years old when on August 9, Wilson shot him at least six times, twice them in the head, according to a preliminary autopsy. The federal government has ordered a new third- -the autopsy on Brown.
No one speaks for the time of sending federal troops to control the violent spiral. But the governor of Missouri, Democrat Jay Nixon deployed the National Guard, the state militia in the United States usually move sometimes as natural disasters, but also to deal with situations of public disorder.
It happened in 1992 in the Los Angeles riots and in 2005 after flooding in New Orleans (Louisiana) by Hurricane Katrina. Back in the fifties and sixties, Washington took control of the National Guard and sent federal troops to ensure compliance with court orders barring segregation. The distrust of blacks to state and local authorities has tradition.
The deployment of the National Guard responds to escalation of Sunday night, when a group of people, many coming from outside Ferguson, a city of 21,000 north of San Luis, faced police with Molotov cocktails and firearms.
The Sunday-Monday ‘s second and Nixon announced, last night queda- touch was the worst. The blast came after a week of largely peaceful protests, riots that evoked images themselves unstable countries, the discovery of militarization and police excesses and hesitant policy response may have contributed to inflame.
On Thursday, Ronald Johnson, captain of the Missouri Highway Patrol took charge of security. Johnson is black and grew up in the area.
His arrival calmed things down. But on Friday, the local police, in addition to announcing the identity of the officer who shot Brown, Brown pointed to as responsible for a robbery at a nearby store minutes before the shooting. Disclosure of this information outraged the family of the deceased. From the Friday night of fire and gas back in force.
The perception that justice is not equal for all and the police will not protect them is widespread among African Americans. The problem is local -and has to do with the decline of the great cities of the Middle West- but goes further in geography and time. In Ferguson, a city with a 67 % black, there are 50 black and three white policemen. 38% of the prison population in America is black; in cities like Washington, three out of four young black men will at some point in their lives to prison.
The lawyer Michelle Alexander has defined this system as the “new Jim Crow”, the name given by the system of legal segregation established in the South after the Civil War. “These young people,” Alexander writes in the book of the same title, “are part of an enclosed and secluded subcaste permanently from the mainstream of society.”
Reducing sentences for minor offenses and prosecution of racial discrimination by law enforcement is a priority of the Obama Administration. But race -the American problem: no superado- trauma is a sensitive issue for President. A question even intimate.
Obama knows what the police will stop or will undergo a narrower registration at an airport by the color of his foot. He is the president of all Americans, also white gangs terrorized by ghosts (bands) and ghettos in flames but no one as he can empathize with Michael Brown and his family.
” There are very few African Americans in this country who have not had the experience of being followed when they buy from a department store,” he once said. “This includes me.”