Viewpoint

Suddenly the nation is talking about black equality.

It took Molotov cocktails in Ferguson, Mo., to forcefully penetrate our slumbering racial consciousness. Ferguson has become a metaphor for race relations in the 21st century; a signifier for the convergence of poverty, segregation, police brutality, and federal and civic neglect. Most importantly, the Ferguson crisis has forced the nation to re-examine the idea of black equality.

Watching the television news footage of the riots in Ferguson, Mo., I remembered a unique assignment I worked more than 30 years ago, but will never forget.

The screaming protestors. The heavily armed police. The burning buildings.

The instant the news broke that 18-year old Michael Brown was slain by a Ferguson, Missouri cop the inevitable happened. Police officials dusted off a well-worn cover themselves template. They would either hold a press conference, publicly release, or leak documents that depicted Brown as having gang ties, smoked dope, dealt dope, had an arrest record, was a school trouble maker, or engaged in some kind of deviant behavior.

Attorney General Eric Holder has a compelling federal case in the Michael Brown killing if he decides to bring civil rights charges against Ferguson, Missouri cop, Darren Wilson.

He's certainly taken almost unprecedented lightning fast first steps in that direction. He's got a phalanx of FBI agents assigned to the case. He's authorized an autopsy by a crack medical examiner from the military. He personally travelled to the city to review procedures with civil rights division attorneys and investigators. None of this would have been done without the personal approval of President Obama, who already has made more statements on the Ferguson furor and the Brown killing than he has on any other racially charged flashpoint issue during his White House tenure.

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