"The problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line" wrote political activist W.E.B. DuBois in 1903. In 2015 that same line seems inexpugnable. For all the celebrations of the Obama age and a new "post-racial” America, the fault lines of the nation continue to be most problematic and seismic when they can be drawn in black and white. For more than a year the news has been full of the deaths of young black men at the hands of white police officers: the unarmed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Eric Garner choked to death on a New York City street, 12 year old Tamir Rice shot in a Cleveland park while holding a replica pistol, Freddie Gray delivered to a Baltimore Police Station with a mostly-severed spinal cord, after being unbuckled and tossed about in the van. This series of high profile incidents has opened public discussions about the role that law enforcement plays in American society, especially in communities of colour. It has turned police unions against elected officials, such as New York Mayor Bill Blasio. It has increased the suspicion and fear that divides police forces from the communities they are organised to serve. What can be done to redress the problems? And what does it mean for Australia?
The US Studies Centre hosted a public panel on race, police violence and protest in the US and Australia.