News / USA

US Racial Tensions Story Ripples Abroad

  • A group of police attempt to disperse a crowd in Ferguson, Missouri, Aug. 20, 2014.
  • Police arrest a man as they break up a crowd of protesters, in Ferguson, Missouri, Aug. 20, 2014.
  • Protester Hana Kato holds a sign naming the police officer that shot the teenager as she attends an evening rally, Tacoma, Washington, Aug. 19, 2014.
  • Quentin Baker, from Crystal City, Missouri participates in a protest in Ferguson, Missouri, Aug. 20, 2014.
  • A school bus full of children chant, "Hands up, don't shoot" as the vehicle drives past the scene where St. Louis Metropolitan Police earlier shot and killed a man wielding a knife in the St. Louis area, August 19, 2014.
  • Security forces detain a demonstrator during a protest against the shooting of unarmed black teen Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri, Aug. 20, 2014.
Cecily Hilleary

The racial tensions story in Ferguson, Mo. is not only making international headlines. It’s being used by some foreign governments to spread an anti-American message.

For countries whose rights records Washington has criticized, Ferguson offers an opportunity to even the score. 

Some governments and media are using some of the same language Washington has used against repressive police tactics in their countries.

Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said Tuesday it was closely monitoring events in Ferguson and called for “restraint and respect for the right of assembly and peaceful expression of opinion.” 

“USA used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse a protest in Ferguson,” Alexei Pushkov, head of Russia’s State Duma Committee for International Affairs, tweeted August 15.  “Is it not a sign of dictatorship and excessive use of force?” 

“It is regrettable that countries which claim to [defend] human rights are pursuing such [racist] approaches,” Iran’s Press TV quoted Iranian deputy foreign minister Majid Takht-e-Ravanchi as saying.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also weighed in on Twitter:

China’s Xinhua news agency suggests it is time for America to stop focusing on “human rights flaws” in other countries and clean its own house. 

“In its annual human rights report issued in February, the United States assaulted almost 200 countries across the world for their so-called poor human rights records,” Xinhua said this week.

“However, the U.S. human rights flaws extend far beyond racial issues….What's more, Uncle Sam has witnessed numerous shooting sprees on its own land and launched incessant drone attacks on foreign soil, resulting in heavy civilian casualties,” the news service said.

Europe weighs in

In countries where a more free press flourishes, Ferguson has served as a lens for viewing America’s complex social and economic tapestry.

In Europe, the media coverage has drawn questions about America’s racial divide.

“How can this be happening in an America that has elected a black president?” asks Tim Stanley, a British historian of the United States, in the Telegraph, who concludes that change isn’t likely to come from the White House, but at the street level.

France’s Le Monde calls Ferguson “a cruel metaphor for contemporary America, its tensions, its fractures and its old demons.”

Some coverage has focused on the militarization of U.S. police.

“…the police response to a series of protests over his [Michal Brown’s] death has been something more akin to the deployment of an army in a miniature war zone,” U.K.’s Guardian newspaper comments.

Police mugshot of Die Welt reporter Ansgar Graw, courtesy STL MugshotPolice mugshot of Die Welt reporter Ansgar Graw, courtesy STL Mugshot
Police mugshot of Die Welt reporter Ansgar Graw, courtesy STL Mugshot
Police mugshot of Die Welt reporter Ansgar Graw, courtesy STL Mugshot

In a lengthy and scathing account of his arrest by Ferguson police, Die Welt reporter Ansgar Graw says he has covered conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam and elsewhere.

"To be captured by police, yelled at and be treated rudely by police and to see the inside of a prison, I had to travel to Missouri in the United States of America,” he writes.

Among U.S. allies worldwide, there are critics.

“Australians tend to think the United States is too heavily armed, and that shootings of all kinds are symptomatic of the power and availability of heavy weaponry,” said David Smith, lecturer in American politics and foreign Policy at the University of Sydney.

He said that Australians believe that the U.S. criminal justice system discriminates against African Americans “at all levels.”

That said, Smith admits that Australia has struggled with its own racial divide.

“Like the United States, Australia has a problem with black deaths in custody, which has also caused race riots in relatively recent times. Around the world, white people everywhere deplore racism in the United States, but unfortunately I think this helps us turn a blind eye to our own structures of white supremacy,” Smith said.

Still, for some Americans – and the Obama administration – international criticism is a bitter pill to swallow.

The State Department Tuesday rejected Egypt’s criticism, as well as comparison of Ferguson to situations in Egypt, China or Zimbabwe.

“People are free to say whatever they want. That’s something we believe in very deeply here, is freedom of expression,” Deputy Spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters at Tuesday’s daily press briefing.

“We here in the United States will put our record for confronting our problems transparently and openly and honestly up against anyone else’s in the world…” she said, “and we would call on other countries to do the same.”    

For others, like Michele Dunne of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Ferguson gives the U.S. an opportunity to demonstrate America’s ability to self-correct. 

“Every country has human rights abuses,” Dunne tweeted to VOA Tuesday, “[especially] police brutality. Question is whether there is [accountability] & redress.”

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Comment Sorting
by: Joy from: Michigan
August 23, 2014 12:02 PM
in responce to meanbill, about if no color was mentioned of either the cop or Victim there wouldnt had been a riot. NOT TRUE! Can anyone give just one acct of an Unarmed White boy, teenager, and or adult gunned down, murdered and or aressted at the unnumeral, unmeasurable rate as that of the black race or race of color ? Even a handfull! My point is its sadly all to common that people of color are being killed and murdered daily that the black community is truely tired and in some cases gotten tired of complaining and following the "justice system" protocall filing complaints etc. becouse of given the Same answers, excuses and outcomes. No matter the state, city, township, or community! But If it wer to happen to a teenager it is an Uncommon Unheard of thing. And when the police depts. Cover up their illegal unjust actions to "attempt" to make themselfs perfect all while continuing to do BUISNESS as usual harrasing and assulting the public what do you think is going to happen? Nothing! Unless an act of GOD! So yes even a blind man could tell you an 18yr old victim of Another cop killing citizens was black . And if the cop himself was black he would have been immediatly Fired! Convicted and Sentenced to at least 15-25yrs!

by: meanbill from: USA
August 20, 2014 6:53 PM
USING LOGIC.... The Ferguson Missouri protests and riots would never have happened, (if nobody knew), the ( skin color) of the police officer, and the (skin color) of Brown, an18 year old man, a petty thief, a bully, and a criminal, who refused orders by the police officer to comply, assaulted the police officer, resisted arrest, and threatened bodily harm to the police officer, and caused his own death by the self-defense shooting.... only Brown's and the police officers (skin color), are causing these protests and riots, and revenge, and nothing else... (If nobody knew their (skin color), there'd be nothing to protest and riot over, would there be?)

PS;.. There would never had been any protests or riots, if the protesters and rioters, hadn't know the (skin color) of Brown the criminal, and the (skin color) of the police officer that shot and killed him in self-defense, would there have been?.... NO MATTER what the protesters and rioters say, it's only the (skin color) of Brown and the police officer, that's inflaming the anger and rage by those, who's (skin color) is also the same as Brown, and nothing else matters to them, making it racist racial thing..... and those of Brown's (skin color) want revenge only..... be they President, preachers, Attorney General, or politicians of the same (skin color) as Brown?.... (That's my opinion, what's yours?).

by: Mark from: Virginia
August 20, 2014 6:18 PM
Criticism, however true, can sting. Those foreign voices (of opinion) are correct, for the most part. For long we have criticized other countries for much of the same that happens here in our own borders. While not to the extreme that other countries take, we still have our own issues regarding race and racial violence.
It is true, we do need to clean up our own mess before we can truly criticize those same messes in other countries. Reminds me of a time while I was in the Marine Corps... during uniform inspection the Staff Sergeant conducting the inspection tried to write up boot infractions (eyelets on boots were not black, but had some shiny areas visible). It was pointed out that the inspector himself had the same violation, and thus could not write up others for same infraction.
Not to wax biblical.. but it said that before you remove the mote in your brother's eye, first remove the beam in your own.
This country still has a long way to go to resolve its own racial divides, if we ever do, that is. Human Nature and a lengthy history of racial hatred still haunts us. Incidents, like this one in Missouri, and others in the not so distant past, still rear its ugly head and remind us that we still have a long and bitter road yet to walk.

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