MTP Panel: Racial Divide in U.S. Is Deep and Doesn't End With Ferguson

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The debate over the situation in Ferguson, Missouri, shifted toward long-term solutions on Sunday morning, as a panel of experts agreed that a culture change is needed to avoid future incidents.

“We are in a situation right now that will create Fergusons over and over and over again,” Harvard professor Charles Ogletree said in an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press. “It’s not just in Ferguson, Missouri.”

“There’s a racial divide in America that’s not going to end with Trayvon Martin being killed, with Michael Brown being killed, or with the 12-year-old (Tamir Rice) being killed by police.” Ogletree went on to say, “It’s not going to end at all.”

In response, Dr. Ben Carson and Sherrilyn Ifill of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund said that an in-depth look at police training and tactics would be necessary to facilitate any change. “There are a lot of things that we can probably talk about, for instance, police being equipped with cameras,” Carson said. “Eighty-five percent of these things would be stopped.”

Ifill cited Rialto, California, as an example of successes of police body-worn cameras. “The crime rate dropped and also the complaints about abuse by police officers,” said Ifill. “That’s one thing that has to be done.”

“But you know the other thing that has to be done is real training of police officers. If you look at some of the encounters that we’re seeing on videotape, you’re looking at (Rice) who was killed the other day, it’s within seconds,” Ifill continued. “You’re watching these encounters in which the police arrive on the scene and they’re unable, it seems, to de-escalate, to assess the situation. To see when we’re dealing with a child. And so police officers need real training.”

The discussion also focused on the call for looking at more broad improvements and solutions. Ifill mentioned social media as something that has made incidents more transparent, recalling the memory from when she was ten and a boy that was the same age was shot by a police officer. “The difference now is that we have these photos, we have these cell phone pictures,” Ifill said. “This is something that civil rights organizations have been working on forever and we haven’t been listened to. People haven’t believed us," Ifill continued.

New York Times columnist David Brooks called for “a new social compact on this,” saying “whites, especially, have to acknowledge the legacy of racism and go the extra yard to show respect, to understand how differently some whites, some blacks see some of these police issues.”

— Dale Armbruster

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