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Now that the smoke has settled and the cameras have left, we must keep our attention fixated upon progress and results.

One year after the controversial non-guilty verdict freeing George Zimmerman despite the unnecessary murder of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida, Ferguson exploded. Many Americans hit the streets to protest the latest controversial death, just as they did last summer. Sadly, the protests this time around echo the concerns not just for one life, but for a startling trend.

In New York City, Eric Garner was asphyxiated during a “routine” interaction with police – soon after he broke up a street fight as a good Samaritan.

In California, a highway patrol man was caught punching a disoriented, older black woman in the face during a pedestrian encounter.

There is the questionable shooting death of Ezell Ford at the hands of the LAPD.

And then, of course, there are the clear disparities.

In Colorado in 2012, a killer with semi-automatic weapons makes it out of a movie theater – alive – after shooting dozens in cold-blood. In Ohio this year, a man dies in the toy section with a toy gun in his hand – shot in cold blood by a police officer that has a questionable past concerning justifiable homicide.

Cliven Bundy withstood the United States government with armed neighbors at his side. Marissa Alexander – a survivor of domestic violence – still faces 20 years in jail for arming herself against a chronic abuser that previously beat her and other women.

What’s the state of race relations in America? One look at the disparities and at the current events around the nation indicate that we are headed in the wrong direction.

When police shootings of Blacks are headed in the wrong direction despite crime statistics generally heading in the right direction, race relations are headed in the wrong direction.

When economic disparities, protection of rights, and access to the American Dream continue to morph from possibilities to fantasies for more Americans, race relations are headed in the wrong direction.

From the middle class and conservatives to the struggling and progressives, we have to ask across our differences some pointed question.

Do we really love America as much as we say we do if these events between police forces – people sworn to “serve and protect” under the law – and communities they are hired to serve?

How come innocent until proven guilty applies to some citizens – often those with money and status – while guilty until proven innocent multiple times (often with irrefutable scientific evidence) is the norm for other citizens – often those that are poor, urban, and Black?

When some conservatives defend the cause of citizens’ rights under the Constitution, are we also actively defending the civil rights of Black youth in urban America when encountering the police? Are they, too, innocent until proven guilty and protected against the tyranny of oppressive government?

Geo-politically, why do we think that we can devalue each other as American citizens – and then expect Vladmir Putin and ISIS to respect us as the military and moral leader of the world?

If we are looking to remain the greatest nation in the world – a nation that infuses confidence, justice, morality, and stability within our borders and throughout the globe – we must look within our hearts and within our communities to eradicate the Original Sin of the United States. One of the biggest inhibitors to clear focus, optimized talents, full patriotism, and renewed national confidence over recent times has been our continued inability to confront, calibrate, and correct our lingering racism with our modern society. For every shooting of a Black unarmed youth, there are 100 excuses for why these thugs deserved it. For every statistic showing the frightening gaps in success between Blacks and Whites in Americas, there are 100 people to counter superficially with rhetoric about “personal accountability” without any real talk about the aftermath of decades of racism and division throughout America. For every speech about American Exceptionalism for the nation and world to see, there is the haughty detachment and unrealistic disillusion from the gritty nature of fixing America’s domestic woes to ensure global and historical greatness.

Tear gas hit the streets of Ferguson a few weeks ago, but it’s a cloud of confusion that the nation has been in collectively in over recent years concerning matters of race in America. Until we come to grips with the current racial disparities in perception, interaction, employment, and other societal matters, we’ll meet on the streets in the near future once again for another round of protests over the same resolvable issues – and remain the “nation that could have been in the 21st century” in the meanwhile.

Lenny McAllister is a political analyst and commentator featured on various local, national and international outlets including Al Jazeera America, CNN, the American Urban Radio Network, and Sun News Network. The Pittsburgh-based pundit hosts and produces NightTalk: Get to the Point on the Pittsburgh Cable News Channel on Friday nights at 8pm. He is also a host at Newsradio 1020 KDKA in Pittsburgh. You can follow the former WVON The Talk of Chicago 1690 AM host on Twitter and Facebook.

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