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Morehouse professor Dr. Gregory Hall on Ferguson, Obama and human rights

Dr. Gregory Hall,

Dr. Gregory Hall, professor of Political Science and Peace Studies at Morehouse College


The aftermath following the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri has many wondering what’s next for America. Rolling out spoke with Dr. Gregory Hall, professor of political science at Morehouse College, for his insight on Ferguson, Obama and human rights.

What was your first reaction when you found out what was going on in Ferguson, Missouri?

It saddened me and sent me back to my days as a youth when Dr. King was assassinated in April 1968. There is a breakdown in the dialogue with race relations currently in this country. We actually live in perhaps, two different societies. This all came to me in my mind.

Recently Rolling Out looked at the elements of a “riot,” including rampage, looking for loot, righteous indignation and demonstration. Do we still see the same riot elements as those listed 50 years ago? 

We are seeing all of this play out, and we as social scientists traffic in models and testing models. Obviously, times change as well as players and circumstances but I think you see a bit of all of these at play. What we should be most interested in determining is what are the dominant strands or trends at play in this place. For me one thing that really stands out is the lack or disappearance of community coordination and leadership that is sustained and lasting. That seems hard to bring about in this current situation. Therefore, I think there are elements of a least a couple of these models that are strongly at play. However, there are tensions, [so] we need to continue to explore these models and their refinements — at least from the scholarly side.

What is your opinion of the leadership of President Barack Obama during this crisis?

President Obama has a full plate and that he struggles to maintain leadership in an increasingly unstable international environment. This is not what he would have scripted for his second term. The president is  struggling to keep all the eggs in the air if you will; the Middle East, North Africa issues, Russia relationships and now we have present domestic situations that [are] really vying for attention. I think he’s doing a pretty good job of not falling into being totally distracted with these foreign affair issues, but it’s tough.

What should black people do collectively as a community politically and socially in 2014?

We need to remind ourselves that we are a community first and we need to speak to emphasize community. We need to emphasize the positive things that only come with a sense of community.We need to collectively condemn rabble-rousers, those who would forment acts of violence and would provoke law enforcement. In addition, we need to come together to address and to make sure it stays on the forefront of the agenda human right issues. Because what is happening in Ferguson is a human rights issue, the murder of Michael Brown is a human rights issue. Finally, I would say again stress community the importance of protecting community, being good citizens of the community not hooligans and keeping the human rights issues in the forefront

Black people traditionally vote Democratic; is that the model we should stick to? Should blacks start to look more towards other political parties?

This is still a two-party system there are many problems with that but we have to operate obviously in the realm of what is possible and probable. I think black people should continue to press for real representation by and a stronger voice in the Democratic Party. Nevertheless, more emphasis should be placed on accountability and responsibility of the elected officials, black officials, white officials and hispanic officials from all the different parties.

In closing, what final thoughts would you like to leave our readers?

Ferguson shows us that we have a whole lot of work to do. Ferguson shows us that America cannot move ahead so long as there are two societies separate and unequal. In addition, as long as the gap is so wide, in terms of opportunities for having goodwill and having a good life are increasingly out of reach for so many people cannot be sustained. America cannot rebound and maintain a strong economy so long as these kind of conditions persist.We see this played out in the demonstations in Ferguson.