Tuesday, January 6, 2015

‘Ferguson Did Not Happen in a Vacuum’

The Chronicle of Higher Education
January 6th, 2015

On August 9, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo., a white police officer shot an unarmed young black man dead. To understand what happened that day, you need more than details about what went down between the officer, Darren Wilson, and the victim, Michael Brown. You need history.
That was the message powerfully brought home by scholars on a panel held here on Monday at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association. The panel, "Understanding Ferguson: Race, Power, Protest, and the Past," brought together historians who have studied and taught and written publicly about race and racism in the United States.
Panel members came at the subject from a multitude of angles: demographics, the history of policing and mass incarceration, cultural scripts that criminalize African-Americans, myths of racial progress, and how to bring current events into the classroom. Events like Mr. Brown’s killing in Ferguson, the death three weeks earlier of Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y., after a police officer put him in a chokehold, and the subsequent protests that have taken place across the country make it clear that people inside and outside academe wrestle with history every day, whether they know it or not.

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