Selma, AL, circa early 1960s:
For decades, the Deep South had resisted the federal government's insistence that black American citizens be afforded the same rights as their white counterparts. Their response was "Jim Crow", which was a euphemism for "separate, but equal", which was an oxymoron. Along with that was a conspiracy from the local level all the way up to the top of the state government to deny black citizens the right to vote. It was bad enough that it required a constitutional amendment (the 24th - ratified in 1964) to remove most of the impediments to voting.
The Civil Rights Movement under the guidance of Martin Luther King (who studied Ghandi) used non-violent protest and "civil disobedience" (sitting at "whites-only" lunch counters) to push the point that they were not breaking the law - they were only trying to assert their rights. For that, they were brutally suppressed. Attack dogs, water cannon, and beatings from the police, as well as brutal attacks from citizens did not dissuade them.
What they had in their favor at that time was the emergence of TV news, and photographers capturing the carnage for national magazines like "Look" and the "Saturday Evening Post". It was images like these that turned the tide:
The court of public opinion was getting graphic evidence that words can often not convey, and they were ready to convict the perpetrators as un-American. The court proscribed a solution, and the Civil Rights Act was created and passed. The South still resisted, but now those trying simply to be treated as equal human beings had the federal government backing them up in a legal capacity.
Fast-forward to today. We are a society bombarded with media constantly. Print media is fairly passe (unfortunately), and with 1000 TV channels, cellphones, tablets, and TV screens wherever you go - not to mention video games, we as a society have become quite inured to violent imagery. We are jaded.
With the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act 50 years in the rear view mirror, it's dispiriting that the very lives of non-white citizens are still being treated as worth less (and sometimes worthless) than their white counterparts. We are seeing a repeat of the 1960s, with a white minority angry that their assumed supremacy is being questioned, and police treating black citizens as dangerous criminals, regardless of who they are and what they've done.
What it has taken to raise the public consciousness above their apathetic entropy is the explosion of on-the-scene cellphone video of police brutalizing and - in some cases - murdering black citizens for the crime of Living While Black. People can read the story of a person being beaten to death by cops and wondering what the victim did to prompt it. With the video, there is no question. FOX "News" may try to bring in some past indiscretions - as if THAT warranted the police to become judge, jury and executioner for a minor infraction - in an effort to cloud the issue, but it really is pretty clear:We live in a country where a segment of the police in this country feels it is okay to take out their misplaced aggression on innocent citizens they feel are less than human.
I will not paint all police with a broad brush, but the problem of the thin blue line is the reluctance of those on the bluer side of it to condemn those who step over the bloody red line. There are a lot of good police officers, but until they feel safe and supported calling out the bad cops among them, very little will change. If they don't make the changes themselves, then the changes will be thrust upon them by a nervous public no longer complacent nor comfortable with the status quo.
The video compels us - something must be done. We as a society believe our eyes. We can no longer abide this. It's time.