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Have Police Incidents Hurt America’s Image?


People around the world are again talking about race relations in the United States.

Recently, two U.S. grand juries decided not to recommend legal action against two police officers. The officers were involved in the deaths of two African-Americans in two separate cases -- one in Missouri, and the other in New York.

The grand jury decisions led to protests in cities across the nation. News organizations throughout the world reported on the story. Many showed images of the protesters. The demonstrations helped to motivate some people overseas.

In London, students at King’s College have been talking about the grand jury decisions and the unrest in their classes.

“It’s not a good thing.”

That is Xiang Yingchao, a 23-year-old economics student from China. He has studied in the United States.

“A lot of Chinese press, they said, like, ‘Oh, in U.S. they always say, they always advocate the human rights, but look at them -- it’s like they have two standards of human rights.’”

Fifty-three-year-old Paul Zimmerman is from London. He is studying for a master’s degree. He says the grand juries may have made the right decision, but many people just do not feel good about it.

“There’s an assumption that somehow there’s something that has gone on that isn’t quite right. Maybe they’ve come up with the right conclusion, but in a sense that doesn’t really matter.”

Mark Eastwood is a 24-year-old student from northern England. He agrees with Paul Zimmerman.

“I would say it’s exposed a broader issue. It’s more, for me, the, the story of Ferguson and what’s happened in New York in the last week or so, is more about the issues of, of, you know, as I say, structural racism.”

Mr. Zimmerman says the election of Barack Obama for two terms as president does not mean that America’s racial issues have been solved.

“Electing a black president, in, in theory, is transformational but there’s a lot that needs to happen in order to correct many, many years of systemic unfairness.”

Xiang Yingchao agrees.

“One black president cannot change these things. They have to change their justice system, I mean, even their laws.”

Joshua Simon teaches at King’s College. He says his students recognize the concerns about the grand jury decisions. But he says they are hopeful because of the strong reaction to the decisions.

“They’re thinking of it as a, as a pretty shocking demonstration of the, the remaining racial injustices in the United States, and a pretty encouraging sign that the population in the United States isn’t going to take these events lying down.”

Mr. Simon says many people believe the United States has made great progress in improving race relations. But he says the recent incidents have shown how much work remains. He says poor race relations hurt American efforts to be considered a moral leader.

I’m Christopher Cruise.

VOA London Correspondent Al Pessin reported this story. Christopher Cruise wrote it for VOA Learning English. He also read and produced the program. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

grand jury n. a group of citizens who decide whether to approve criminal charges

recommend v. to suggest or propose that someone do something

structural adj. relating to the way something is built or organized

systemic adj. of or relating to a way of doing something

moral adj. concerning what is right or wrong in someone’s actions

What is your reaction to the incidents and to the decisions not to charge the police officers involved with a crime? Do you think the jurors made the right decision? How would you describe race relations in your country? Write your reaction in the comments section.

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