For the first time since 1968 the National Guard was deployed in the US city of Baltimore to curb rioting following the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody. The last time this happened another black man had been killed – Martin Luther King Junior. The juxtaposition of the two events illustrates how far the United Sates has come in countering racism and how far it has to go.

The death of Freddie Gray prompted riots that bore striking resemblance to ones that took place in Ferguson last year following the death of Michael Brown at the hands of the police; yet these were more violent. The rioters burned almost a 100 vehicles and looted several buildings; damaging countless more. The incident has drawn mixed responses, especially with the background of the coming general elections, with some choosing to focus on the disturbing trend of police brutality against young black males, while the other choosing to focus on the rioting and the looting, which damaged the same community to which the rioters belonged. Yet, those calling for strict punishment for the rioters need to remember that the violence is the direct result of a long and persistent problem of discriminatory law enforcement; the outbreak of violence is a natural response of an oppressed society – Ferguson should have made that abundantly clear. Furthermore, punishing the rioters, who rationalise their actions as a just resistance would only serve to exacerbate the divide –the black rioters are punished, the white murderers are not.

What should concern U.S authorities more is the recurrent problem of a heavily militarised, excessively violent and heavy handed police force, which has been operating with near impunity for decades. Only modern technology which has put a camera in virtually every hand has brought this to the public limelight. Even still, the police officers are protected by their departments; which uses relationships built with the state prosecution over decades of cooperation to avoid the filing of charges. Even if they are filled the law and the legal fraternity remains heavily tilted in the favour of the police force. There have been several incidents were the police has been filmed using excessive force but has not been charged. This needs to change, and maybe it has; the Baltimore state prosecutor Marilyn Mosby has charged the 6 officers involved with crimes up to second-degree murder. It remains to be seen whether the legal system mirrors her enthusiasm. Unless white police officers are held guilty for using excessive force on black youths, this festering wound in the U.S society will not begin to heal.