Five Years After Brown Shooting, U.S. Racial Tensions ‘May Be More Intense’

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Michael Brown’s death at the hands of a white Missouri police officer five years ago Friday stands as a “seismic moment” in race relations, says the Associated Press. The Black Lives Matter movement found its voice, police departments fell under intense scrutiny, progressive prosecutors were elected and court policies revised. Yet racial tension in the U.S. remains palpable and may be even more intense. From the march on Charlottesville to President Donald Trump’s tweets attacking Democrats of color and Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling at NFL games, the nation seems more divided than ever. Ferguson “drew attention to the practices of police violence and a lot of the stereotypes and viewpoints that people had about black Americans,” said Adia Harvey Wingfield, a Washington University sociologist, who adds, “I think that we’re in a place where we kind of see some progress coupled with some steps backward.”

Ferguson has changed, though to some, not fast enough. The government for the city of 21,000 is more reflective of its two-thirds-black population. Four of the six City Council members are black, compared with one in 2014. The police force that was overwhelmingly white in 2014 is far more diverse. About half of the police force is made up of black officers, and they’re led by a black chief, Jason Armstrong. The problem is finding enough officers. Ferguson has 13 vacancies.  Prospective officers “are going to ask themselves the question, ‘Do I want to go through this, put my family through this?’ ” says Mayor James Knowles. Ferguson has seen a spike in homicides — nearly 30 in five years in a town where killings were once uncommon. Knowles believes criminals have become more brazen knowing police are hesitant to make traffic stops — the so-called “Ferguson effect.”

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