Now that the grand jury has decided not to indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed Mike Brown, there are a lot of questions to answer. For President Obama, the issue is what his next step should be on Ferguson and the issues it illustrates for the country. As Obama said in his statement on the decision, “This is not just an issue for Ferguson, this is an issue for America.” Thus, the next question is, in part, what should the American president do now?
There are already conflicting opinions about what Obama should do. He was never going to escape criticism for his reaction to the situation in Ferguson. His statement coming as it did during the protests in Ferguson suffered from the contrast of his calm and reasonable tone and the reality of the anger and violence that many people felt and expressed. He had to balance many people’s opinions, including the one that holds the indictment to be egregious and others who believe the rule of law is the most important thing. As America’s first African-American president, he will suffer (and does suffer) from the controversy surrounding his own person and identity. The Washington Post published an article discussing the lose-lose situation Obama faces. That headline is a simple summation of the challenges he faces.
There have been some interesting suggestions for Obama’s next step ranging from systemic to attitudinal. As far as the police reactions to the Ferguson protests, some people want a “czar” and others have suggested that the policy of selling military equipment to police forces should be discontinued. After the many photos of protesters being faced with military vehicles and weaponry, this suggestion may resonate with many. In a searing critique of Obama’s remarks, Breitbart suggested that the president should look at crime rather than racism in America, noting that “white racism does not even rank in the top 100” causes of crime.
Representative Peter King, a Republican politician from New York, had some of the most interesting comments on the issue. He told reporters that he was disappointed in the president’s statement because it did not refer to the police officer involved, Darren Wilson. He said he would have liked to hear “one good word about Officer Wilson who had gone through all this.” He later went on to suggest that the president invite Wilson to the White House in order to say, “You’ve gone through four months of smear and slander and the least we can do is tell you that it is unfortunate that it happened and thank you for doing your job.”
Suggestions like these will no doubt bring different reactions from different people. Some people may believe that justice was done by the grand jury and that the evidence presented ended up yielding the appropriate result. As the president acknowledged, America is “a nation built on the rule of law” and that rule has been satisfied. There are many, many others, however, who feel that justice has not been done. Al Sharpton, who has been a vocal advocate in this matter, characterized the decision as “an absolute blow” and felt that justice had not been truly served. Whatever opinion people may adhere to, the practical question remains: what is Obama’s next step on Ferguson? The people of that city, of the nation and indeed the world are waiting to know.
By Lydia Bradbury