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Lesson from Ferguson

Since last summer, there has been so much written about the shooting death of Michael Brown Jr. in Ferguson, Missouri and the inability of our legal system to bring this case to justice that it’s almost foolhardy to think we can add substantially to the conversation. So we will contribute just a small thought.

Our dismay at watching this case unfold, in the halls of public power and on the street, is compounded by a simple, uncomfortable fact: Racism is persisting in this country even though the top elected official and top justice official are both African American.

No one should have been so naive as to believe that Barack Obama’s ascension to the White House would have magically erased centuries of servitude. But it was not unreasonable to expect progress, to expect that black people, especially black men, would not be treated so much worse than their white counterparts by police and the courts.

There certainly is more that President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder could do to make the system fairer and opportunity more broadly available. But one of the rueful civic lessons of Ferguson is that America’s decentralized system of law enforcement means that reforms have to come town by town, city by city, state by state. This realization should only heighten our commitment as Jews to ensure that justice truly is pursued for and available to all.

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