What happened last August (2014) in Ferguson, Missouri, when a white police officer shot and killed unarmed teenager Michael Brown may never be known with any certainty. What is certain, however, is that the events on that summer evening and their aftermath have exposed a profound divide between black and white Americans. The assumption—and the hope of many after Barack Obama’s election to the office of president—that Americans were living in a “post–racial America”— has now been dashed.
The long–awaited November grand jury decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson was further seen by most African–Americans and quite a few whites as a great injustice and a failure of the American legal system. The grand jury failure to indict in the soon–to–follow Staten Island, New York, case where another white policeman seemed to choke to death Eric Garner only confirmed to many African–Americans the sad and lingering plight of black men in our “racist” nation. These events reminded many of the not–too–distant 2012 shooting of black teenager Trayvon Martin by Hispanic security officer George Zimmerman in Florida. And these events have left many in the nation feeling angry, saddened, and hopeless.