THE BLOG
11/25/2014 08:42 am ET Updated Jan 25, 2015

The Significance of Race: Michael Brown's Death and Its Aftermath

Recent events in Ferguson, MO, has left many questions that continue to haunt our society: community policing, trust in law enforcement, but more so the continuing significance of race in America. The recent riots that surrounded the death of Michael Brown have continued to open the debates about the discussions on race, criminal justice and America's post racial society.

Unfortunately this debate has neither materialized nor even blossomed and any discussion on race takes away the best of who we are as Americans. Whether we admit it or not, race and racism continues to be a significant factor that haunts our great country as we delved into the deep waters of race in America.

The riots in Ferguson, MO can be traced to economic, social and racial factors that continue to haunt many poor African American communities, distrust in policing, stereotypes of young black males but more the failure to talk about race and the acknowledgment that race still plays an important role in our society. The riots brought many debates to the forefront of America, that's is in the 21st century there are still many facets of oppression that exits and are prevalent in American society. Since the inception of America, the house of democracy has been plagued with cracks of racism and discrimination against African Americans, and other minorities groups. During the last 300 years we have made little attempts to fix these cracks and as a result, we have struggled with a defective foundation. Thus, here lies the problem of why race still matters in America.

Michael Brown's death, riots and Ferguson, MO became another part of the puzzle why race matters in America. The fact that many Americans refuse to come to terms that the history of the African Americans is a struggle against racism and oppression in a country that still today refuses to acknowledge and apologize for its actions and wrongdoing. As a result, lack of discussion of race among law enforcement, community engagement organizations, and white Americans fuels our greatest enemy. Any discussions of race among white Americans leaves a very cautious and complicated reaction, many of which often shy away from any constructive dialogue.

The Ferguson, MO, riots have brought many factors to the forefront, none more important that the fact we need to acknowledge that race and racism is a societal problem which can be only resolved by having more open dialogue on race and discussion of diversity in America. Only conversations about the truth, the need for reconciliation and America's acknowledgment of its wrong doing can lead to a more racially tolerant country where the American dream can be enjoyed by all despite race or color.

The stereotypes of young black males continues to be a major disappointment in society, Michael Brown's death became another element that defines our racial perception of who black men are. "Can't Legislate Morality," coined by the late Arizona senator and presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, remains a message that is lost in today's society, and reminiscent of what happen in Ferguson, MO. According to Senator Goldwater in 1964, despite the passage of many civil rights laws, it's still imbedded in our conscious to discriminate against African Americans and other minority groups. The idea that Michael Brown, a young black male might be a threat to law enforcement -- a thug and just an outright deviant member of society -- reinforces the racial stereotype on how we view young black men and race in America. Michael Brown's death fuels the debate on what happened to the idea that America would become a melting pot that we are constantly reminded of and often embrace. His death reminds us that this melting pot did not melt and it remains a distant dream. The fact is that the failure to talk about race and racism, and the failure to acknowledge that racism exist in the 21st century, is what fuels one of the most debatable topics in America. The events like Ferguson, MO, and other parts of America constantly remind us that we have a long way to go to achieve a post racial society and a melting pot that is sought after in America.

As we entered the 21st century, America continued to grapple with the issue of why race is still an important element in our society. Events in Ferguson, MO, remind America that we slowly need to confront the issue of race, and it becomes quite clear that race still matters in America. There was an increased expectation that America would transcend race and that both white and black racial attitude will undergo a fundamental change, but it has not. Now some 50 years later after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, arguably the one of the most important legislation in our country's history. Gone are the days when "Whites Only and Colored" signs lurked over water fountains, bathrooms, public places, restaurant counters and other avenues of society. As we enter the 21st-century silent and not overt racism exists overtly in our school systems, employment, poverty, healthcare, prison system, immigrant communities, and other sectors of societies. It also permeates our society in ways we don't even realize and takes away the best of who we are as Americans. Ferguson, MO, and Michael Brown's death became another avenue where race and its brutal ugliness shies. The idea of Americans living in a post racial society where all are guaranteed the benefits of the American Dream have almost disappeared in many African American and minority communities.

Sadly, the riots in Ferguson, MO has reminded us that, RACE still remains an important element in our society, and that we are so far fetch from the melting pot, far from the goal, and far from the dream. We are still living in a society where race and racism still remains an eyesore in our society. ____________________________________________________
Stephen Balkaran is an Instructor in the Department of Philosophy and Political Science at Quinnipiac University.