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Clay: Michael Brown's Death Sparks Long Overdue National Conversation On Race

Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus used an hour of so-called special orders on the House floor Monday night to draw attention to troubles confronting minorities across the U.S. with special attention paid to the recent unrest in Ferguson., Missouri. 

U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis, opened his comments by saying the pain felt in Ferguson following the shooting death of Michael Brown “has stirred the conscience of the nation and has forced us to confront some very difficult truths.” 

Clay said that Ferguson and in many communities across the country have a deep sense of outrage and anger. He says the pain is “felt by millions of Americans of color, both young and old, who know from decades of sad experience that far too often that local law enforcement agencies and the justice system do not view them or treat them as equal citizens who deserve due process and equal protection under the law.”

Only about three of the Ferguson's 53 police officers are black while 67 percent of the residents are African American. With many police officers not living in Ferguson, Clay said, “In essence, the Ferguson Police Department is an outside armed force, which is not representative of the community that they are sworn to protect.

“The sad truth is that there are too many communities just like Ferguson, across this country where decades of discrimination, abuse and a lack of respect by local law enforcement has resulted in a gulf of suspicion and mistrust,” said Clay. He also said that while he condemns all law breaking and the destruction of private property, “I understand that anger so many of my constituents feel because I feel it, too.”

Telling his House colleagues that there are many hard lessons to be learned from Ferguson, Clay added, “across America today, we have too many Michael Browns; we have too many unarmed young black men who interact with police and wind up dead.”  

In closing his comments, Clay said, that he hopes Michael Brown’s death will help bring about a “long overdue national conversation that leads to truth, reconciliation and equal justice under the law for all.”