Race matters: Bishop Talbert Swan, president of Greater Springfield NAACP, says no indictment in Ferguson case means “America has a long way to go” to bridge racial divide

Bishop Talbert Swan II, president of the Greater Springfield NAACP, said he was disappointed, but not surprised, by the failure of a Missouri grand jury to hand up an indictment in the case of Darren Wilson, the white police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, back in August. The case has sparked protests and unrest in the predominantly black St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. Swan said the case proves that “America has a long way to go” in terms of bridging the racial divide and winning justice for young black men who are killed by police officers.


Conor Berry | cberry@repub.com By Conor Berry | cberry@repub.com
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on November 24, 2014 at 10:25 PM, updated November 25, 2014 at 6:00 AM

SPRINGFIELD — The racial divide in America is alive and well, and a grand jury’s decision not to indict a white cop for fatally shooting an unarmed black Missouri teenager is Exhibit A, according to Bishop Talbert W. Swan II, president of the Greater Springfield NAACP.

“We obviously cannot rest in terms of the fight for justice,” Swan, a Springfield resident, said moments after Robert P. McCulloch, prosecuting attorney for St. Louis County, announced the outcome of the grand jury proceedings in the case of Darren Wilson.

Wilson is the Ferguson, Missouri, police officer who shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown during an August confrontation, setting off weeks of protests and unrest in the predominantly black suburb of St. Louis.

The unrest reignited Monday night shortly after McCuolloch revealed the grand jury’s decision. Protesters overturned cars, blocked traffic and started fires as law enforcement officials attempted to contain crowds in Ferguson and elsewhere across the nation.

Swan said he was disappointed but not surprised by the failure of the grand jury to hand up an indictment. “I think it sends the wrong message concerning the worth of a black life in America,” he said.

Swan, a newly consecrated bishop in the Church of God in Christ, said he doesn’t know what the outcome would have been if Brown had been white rather than black. However, he does know that male black teens are “21 times more likely to be shot (by police officers) than their white counterparts,” he said.

Racial profiling, especially of young black men, is a well-documented phenomenon, Swan said. “America has a long way to go,” he said.

The bishop noted that the Missouri grand jury decision happened just days after a Cleveland police officer fatally shot a 12-year-old boy after responding to a call about a person with a gun in a city park.

The boy was reportedly pointing a black pellet gun at people, according to police, who said the weapon resembled an actual semiautomatic pistol.

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