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Ferguson Riots: Testing Obama’s Will

© Сollage by RIA NovostiFerguson Riots: Testing Obama’s Will
Ferguson Riots: Testing Obama’s Will - Sputnik International
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Violent protests broke out following the shooting of an unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown in the town of Ferguson by a police officer. Ferguson riots can become a critical test for the first African-American president who was initially seen as “personally committed” to working on racial discrimination issue.

Violent protests broke out following the shooting of an unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown in the town of Ferguson by a police officer. Ferguson riots can become a critical test for the first African-American president who was initially seen as “personally committed” to working on racial discrimination issue.

Ferguson Riots: Testing Obama’s Will

Studio guest Thomas Heine, observer of  Politiken daily and prominent author from Copenhagen, Denmark, Yuri Rogulev, Director of Franklin Roosevelt Center at Moscow State University, and Fred Weir, Christian Science Monitor Moscow correspondent, shared their opinions with Radio VR.

How widespread the social inequality in the US is?

Thomas Heine: It is widespread and it is obvious that the Afro-American is not on the average, as well off as the white population. Basically, as I see it, it is a law enforcement problem. I mean, wrong moves seem to have been made in Ferguson.

One major difference between America and Europe would be that you don’t have that the number of guns in the hands of ordinary people in Europe. In America, more than 400 people were killed by the police last year, which is probably because they have a fear that every suspect that they meet might be armed and shoot at them. This is the problem that you don’t have in Europe.

The other side of it is the racial or ethnic divisions. And I think you’ll find these problems in Europe as much as in the States. And will probably find them in Russia as well.

Do you think it is appropriate to speak about racially motivated incidents in Europe as well or this is totally restricted to America?

Thomas Heine: There is racism in Europe, as well as there is racism in Russia.

Has the situation with social inequality changed in the US since the shooting in 1992 of Rodney King in LA?

Yuri Rogulev: We cannot say that it has not changed, but the changes are so slow and they do not touch the very sensitive areas which are associated with the black people in the US, that for people it is very difficult to see these changes.

I would say that we should look at this problem from two angles. One is the basic fundamental historical roots of this conflict which goes back to the 19th century and earlier. And the second angle is the contemporary situation with Barack Obama, who is the first black President in the American history.

I think that from the point of view of the black population in the US, they had very high hopes when he has been elected, that some basic changes will take place in the US. But it didn’t happen. And I think that this is one of the major reasons for this particular conflict.

How would you assess Obama’s reaction and his handling of this?

Yuri Rogulev: First of all, black people had hopes that when he first became President, that he would be a leader of the black population and he will try to undertake important measures to raise up the quality of life, to raise up the income of the black people, to change the educational system, the living conditions and many other questions.

But it didn’t happen. He didn’t prove that he is not just the leader for the black people, but the leader of the whole population of the US. His leadership abilities have been questioned by many-many Americans.

Fred Weir: Obama inherited almost all these problems. And what is exploding there in Ferguson right now is definitely an inheritance and not in any way the result of his indecisiveness or his bad management. It is the American reality.

Having said that, he is the first black President and being the first black President means that he has got to move on it, at least help to clarify the issue for the American public in ways, maybe, previous presidents did not. And I think he is doing that. Part of Obama’s problem is that he is smarter than the average US president, he sees all the contradictions in situations. And therefore, this indecisiveness is just trying to explain all the complexities in many cases of what he is dealing with.

I think he has done some things. I think they are modest things. I think Obamacare, for instance, was quite a breakthrough. If he should get the immigration reform done in some shape, which will probably not satisfy anybody, that too will be a really great achievement.

Yuri Rogulev: What we do see is that Obama is facing a lot of obstacles, a lot of internal political struggle, a lot of opposition in Congress. But in comparison with some other presidents who also had this kind of problems, he wouldn’t go over the heads of the politicians and talk to the people. He wouldn’t address people directly, he wouldn’t try to arrange the support for his political course. And this creates all these problems.

He’s always criticized the American Congress as a do-nothing Congress. And Congress really blocked all his major initiatives and only one has been left under the question, which is the medical reform. But it is going very slowly and its future is very unclear. So, yes, if you recall what he’s been saying at the beginning, he mentioned that he would like to be a president of a change. But the reality became much more complicated and it didn’t happen, and that’s why we see the dissatisfaction growing.

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