By Mariah Stewart -Huff Post Black Voices
ST. LOUIS — In the summer of 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed the “National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders” to investigate and help prevent the spread of race riots that were happening across the country. At the time, unrest had already caused extensive damage and a number of fatalities.
At the end of the seven months of work from the Kerner Commission, as it would come to be known, the 11 members came to one basic conclusion: “Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white — separate and unequal.”
Nearly 50 years later, history is repeating itself. After unrest embroiled the small town of Ferguson, Missouri, in the wake of the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer, Gov. Jay Nixon (D) created the “Ferguson Commission.” According to its website, its goal is to “guide the community in charting a new path toward healing and positive change for the residents of the St. Louis region.”
On Sept. 9, the 16-member group is having its final meeting, and it will turn in its final report to Nixon by the end of the year. But if history proves true, it’s likely the report will go relatively unnoticed and not effect any major change in the community.
In the Kerner Commission’s final report, the body made dozens of recommendations to state governments and the federal government, as well as to police departments, media outlets, workplaces and educational institutions. But despite the commission’s work, Johnson did not act on its recommendations.
Lindsey Lupo, a political science professor at Point Loma Nazarene University and the author of Flak-Catchers: One Hundred Years of Riot Commissions in America, said commissions tend to reduce the sense of urgency and “make it seem as though the government is responding.”
“They end up depoliticized or bandaging the violence, rather than actually dealing with the underlying problems and why the violence erupted in the first place,” she said.
Two years prior to appointing the Kerner Commission, Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, with the aim of removing barriers that had prevented black Americans from exercising their right to vote. However, blacks in the South were still being declined their right by state and local governments. And despite voting against every single civil rights proposal as a House representative, Johnson received credit during his presidency as a civil rights pioneer because he signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964
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