What does America's War on Drugs have to do with the execution/killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and the riots it spawned? The New Republic's John McWhorter believes they're inextricably linked and contends that the way to avoid future Ferguson riots is to end the War on Drugs.
We don't know the details yet, but it's apparent that, in spite of all we went through with [Trayvon] Martin so recently, in a clinch - the mean, messy place where these things always happen - the Ferguson cop Darren Wilson assumed that a big black guy was trouble, serious trouble, and shot him dead. It's what happens in that clinch that matters and we can now see that no amount of articulate protest can cut through such visceral human tendencies as bias and fear.
...I'm the last one to say there should be no protest, but I am dismayed that we are at a point that it can serve only as a statement, not as a tool. The rate is no longer such a novelty that white America will be scared into some concessions as it was in the late sixties. Watching black Ferguson burn and wreck its own neighborhoods is not going to make America suddenly "get it."
If the looting and anger are the "it," it that's what we have up our sleeve as an indication that Brown's death was "the last straw," then we're nowhere.
...So, what will really make a difference? Really, only a continued pullback on the War on Drugs. Much of what creates the poisonous, vicious-cycle relationship between young black men and the police is that the War on Drugs brings cops into black neighborhoods to patrol for drug possession and sale.
...But that's the long game. In the here and now, we are stuck. Michael Brown was not "it." The journalists assiduously documenting the events in Ferguson can serve as historians, but not as agents of change.
We can be quite sure that by next summer, another unarmed black boy will have been shot dead by a white cop scared in the moment. Upon which in another hitherto obscure town there will be protests, something about the episode will be enshrined as a totemic gesture, the right-wing will hope the cop turns out to have been black (as they did this time for a blink) or will revel in predictable evidence that the victim was not always a choirboy in his behavior, and good-thinking people will hope that this time is finally "it."