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Melissa Harris-Perry hosted a segment of her show today titled "The Larger Context of the Michael Brown Shooting". One of the threads of the discussion revolved around the disconnect between Missouri officials like Gov Jay Nixon and Police Chief Thomas Jackson and the people they serve in minority communities.

The discussion ranged from how we see and interpret what others experience to the ability of some (especially whites) to ignore the realities of racism because it doesn't exist in front of them. The discussion also touched on the fact that people like Nixon and Thomas have never been forced to explain their attitudes to a wider audience. Things just were the way they were without a need to justify it.

The segment can be found here.

One thing that struck me in particular was an observation made by UConn professor Jelani Cobb.

Cobb talked about how segregation was received on television by a larger audience and the effect that the broadcasting of violent enforcement of segregation had on the rest of the nation and the world.

Images communicated the situation in ways that words alone could not.

Fire hoses and dogs and violence and anger came to life in the world's living rooms. People like Bull Connor had never been forced to explain the system they upheld to a larger audience. No one had ever asked them to justify it in a forceful and meaningful way.

Yet those startling images shocked a complacent nation into asking questions and demanding answers. They didn't, by themselves, lead to an end of legal segregation but they revealed an
                                                              ugly truth in a startlingly new way.

It occurred to me that we now live in the age of Twitter and the way that events on the ground are being reported by citizens has had an effect on the way the world sees the events in Ferguson.

We no longer require the mediation of a camera crew to tell us what is happening. Individuals can live tweet the event, share pictures on Vine and provide livestreaming of events as they happen.

With social media, we can have events brought to us in ways that we never imagined before, kind of like the way television did fifty years ago. That is how we now experience the world. Social media has been used to bring us images of the Arab Spring, bombings in Gaza and military incursions in Ukraine.

That is how we experienced Ferguson. Social media has given us another mirror through which to see ourselves.

I am not a big fan of what I see.

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