September 20, 2014

LEE | Ferguson Dans le Monde

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By CRISPINUS LEE

The fiasco in Ferguson may have put us at the center of global attention, as media from Germany to Russia, and even North Korea called us out for the alleged failure in the American system. The international reviews on the American city implied and even straight out asked that we reevaluate our social protocol in dealing with domestic conundrums. Whether we agree with what international media reports or not, we can concur that the shooting in Ferguson has been a major embarrassment for the U.S.

Across the world, newspapers poked at the fact that this riot was indeed a continuing plague of racism in the United States. France’s Le Monde has equated the Ferguson scene as “a cruel metaphor for contemporary America, for its tensions, ruptures and old demons.” Similarly, the U.K.’s Guardian took care to mention that American Law enforcement has disproportionately racial responses.

The most scathing remarks, expectedly, came from Russia and other states generally considered anti-U.S. While Rossiya 24, the national news channel in Russia juxtaposed heavily armed police with the protestors, the anchor mentioned that “Cases of such racism are not rare in the nation of exemplary democracy.” This is coming from the country designated by Amnesty International to be where hate crime is “out of control.” Russia also faced its own riots against Central Asians by White Supremacists in 2013.

North Korea also attempted to scar the United States by voicing its opinions. Claiming that the United States was a “graveyard of human rights,” the foreign ministry of North Korea furthered the notion that the United States was a society where racial minorities live in fear of not knowing whether they would be shot to death. This is sadistically hilarious, particularly considering the intense racism towards people of African descent, particularly at Obama, that North Korean media propagates; but it is nothing new. The Korean Central News Agency began basing their reports of American society after the White Papers (reports about American human rights published in response to American criticism by China), which included mentions of how American racism was out of control.

This is not the first case of media ripping on the United States for an allegedly race based calamity. Soviet propaganda and films took care to remind their audience that the United States was a country mired in class and racial hate that treated its black citizens like animals.

It is difficult to take any propaganda film seriously, but the same can’t be said for reality. From Uruguay to Canada, pictures of disgruntled rioters and photos of policemen dressed like military men form a dangerous mural of an angry populace and an aggressive police force. Though the focus varied depending on each country, most headlines took care to look into the civil unrest in Missouri, and saw that American society was far from the dreamland of equality or political stability.

It isn’t as if America has suddenly devolved into the worst country for minorities ever. Russia’s hate crime statistics have always been considered dangerously high by Amnesty International, Germany’s Merkel has famously declared that multiculturalism has failed in Germany and North Korea is, well, North Korea. But that doesn’t relieve a population of its responsibilities to fellow citizens and human beings. The world’s view on our society strikes at the legitimacy to call ourselves an advanced democracy. The presentation that Russia and North Korea put forth is indeed snarky, but as demented as it is, it is based on an uncomfortable twinge of truth.

Crispinus Lee is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. He may be reached at cl2272@cornell.edu.

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