Post-Racial America: Do we need the feds after all?

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Post-Racial America
President Barack Obama talks with Attorney General Eric Holder

THE WHITE HOUSE chose to post this “Photo of the Day” of President Barack Obama discussing the situation in Ferguson with Attorney General Eric Holder to illustrate the strong federal concern about events in Missouri. (Photo by Pete Souza provided for public use.)

Attorney General Eric Holder is in Ferguson, Missouri, today as part of the Justice Department’s independent civil rights investigation into the case of Michael Brown, the teenager shot and killed by police. Earlier, the feds announced their own autopsy, making it the third forensic examination of the body.

What does the federal government’s presence tell us?

A majority of Americans (60%) believe the federal government is too big a presence in their lives, according to a poll earlier this month by Rasmussen Reports. Over half of Americans (54%) believe that the federal government is a threat to individual liberties rather than a protector, according to an April poll by the same polling firm.

What would have happened without federal intervention at Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, back in September 1957? Then, black students tried to attend this all-white school. The state’s governor called in the Arkansas National Guard—to cordon off the school and prevent the black students from entering. Only after President Eisenhower dispatched federal troops (including some from the 101st Airborne Division) could the students attend Central High. It was one of the first federally ordered integration acts.

Fast forward more than a half-century. Local control is a mantra in American society, but the events in Ferguson demonstrate what that can actually mean. The family of Michael Brown employed a New York coroner to examine the body, mistrusting local authorities to do a proper job. And, President Obama has dispatched his Attorney General and the Justice Department to conduct its own investigation.

According to the White House blog: “The Justice Department has opened an independent federal civil rights investigation into the death of Michael Brown. They are on the ground and, along with the FBI, they are devoting substantial resources to that investigation. The Attorney General himself will be traveling to Ferguson on Wednesday to meet with the FBI agents and DOJ personnel conducting the federal criminal investigation, and he will receive an update from them on their progress. He will also be meeting with other leaders in the community whose support is so critical to bringing about peace and calm in Ferguson.”

So, do we need the federal government after all to make sure the right things are done?
Will it take concerted federal intervention to create a post-racial society?
Would you support such a federal role?

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  1. goobers says

    History tells us that even when there are good people that want to do the right thing, it sometimes takes a nudge (or way more) from the federal government to create change.

    I do not support federal involvement in many issues, but when it comes to civil rights, the White House has both symbolic and executive power to make lasting change.