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Riots in US town prompt soul-searching on nation's racial divide

Posted on Aug 28 2014 | IANS

By Arun Kumar, Washington, Aug 28 : Ferguson, the predominantly black small US town where a white policeman shot dead an unarmed black teen triggering weeks of protests has touched a raw nerve exposing America's persistent racial divide.

The protests, riots and looting of stores including some owned by Indian-Americans in the St Louis, Missouri, suburb of 21,000 people, nearly 70 percent of them black, but policed by 53 police officers all but three of them white, also has raised uneasy questions.

"The town is trying to figure out how to turn a tragic moment into a lasting movement," as Time magazine put it.

It described Ferguson as "a town that has become the latest shorthand for America's racial divide to figure out how to translate the energy, intensity and anger of the past two weeks into concrete change."

"The problem is that nobody is quite sure how to do it - or what that change would even look like," it said.

The influential Washington Post also wondered "What comes next in Ferguson" noting, "A reaction like we saw in Ferguson does not simply grow from nothing."

"It takes years of issues and tension, friction and unease, building and building before a spark sets the entire thing off," it said.

"Can peace come to Ferguson?" wondered CNN Contributor LZ Granderson noting "Blacks in and around Ferguson have felt targeted by police and disenfranchised for decades."

"They are overrepresented in police stops and arrests and underrepresented as police officers and lawmakers. They have been frustrated by this dynamic since long before Michael Brown" the slain 18 year old black teen, "was born."

Another CNN correspondent John Blake suggested "How Ferguson could be America's future.

"The protests in Ferguson, Missouri, have been described as a mirror into contemporary America, but they are also something else: A crystal ball," he wrote.

"Racial divisions will remain a permanent part of America's future as long as the media tells black people that the criminal justice system is stacked against them," he writes citing Ben Shapiro, author of "Bullies:

How the Left's Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences America."

"A dramatic increase in interracial marriages will change the racial landscape as more people cross racial and ethnic lines to marry," Blake says.

"But that change won't be a cure-all," he cites Rory Kramer, a sociology and criminology professor at Villanova University in Pennsylvania, as saying.

Racial progress is not inevitable with the browning of America, says Kramer as it will not happen without effort.

Lisa Corrigan, director of the Gender Studies Programme at the University of Arkansas, also doesn't accept the notion that most white people will welcome the browning of a country that she says was built on white male supremacy.

"It's going to get worse before it gets better," she is quoted as saying, "because power is shifting and white people think that their whiteness is property to be defended."

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at

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