Society 04 February 2015 14 783
RTD goes to the town of Ferguson in Missouri, USA, to learn more about the mass protests and unrest that followed the fatal shooting of 18-year-old, Michael Brown by a police officer. His tragic death ignited tensions that had been building up for years in the economically deprived area. The events have raised wider questions of racial profiling, police violence and social justice across the whole of the US.
Exclusive local interviews reveal the widespread belief that the killing wasn’t merely an unfortunate accident, but the result of systematic racism towards African American people within the majority white police service. They’re targeted, jailed, compelled to pay astronomical fines for crimes they have not committed. That kind of injustice, coupled with displays of racism, are every day occurrences for Ferguson’s black residents.
Local musician, Troy Donaldson offers a guided tour of the area through which the reasons for the Ferguson shooting become apparent; desperately inadequate infrastructure and housing and lack of proper schooling and job opportunities have caused the neighbourhood to decay, forcing impoverished locals to seek help from the darkest of sources. They are caught in a vicious circle, making a living from drug dealing and other criminal behavior thus presenting as a threat to society.
The social tension created a tinder box and the shooting sparked destructive protests among the black community. They now have a powerful message: that the police can’t just open fire without giving providing the chance of a better life. Out of sheer despair, these people are determined to make themselves heard at all costs.
Even in the era of the first black president, racism is alive and kicking in the US. It is causing a social rift in American society as large sections of the black community are convinced that they no more than an inconvenience to the white power base, to be swept under the carpet by segregation. The loud echoes of a shameful past are still being heard.