Sociologist: Grand jury decision setback for race relations

Local pastor tries to draw young black teens together against violence

By Tarik Minor - Anchor, I-TEAM reporter, Kristin Cason - Assignment editor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Dr. JeffriAnne Wilder, a sociologist at the University of North Florida, said protests will continue and possibly even ramp up if more police shootings occur where unarmed African-American males are killed by officers.

She said the Ferguson decision to not indict Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown Jr. is a huge setback for race relations in the U.S., with no clear solution in sight.

"It seems like the more these cases take place, the further and more divided we become," Wilder said. "People don't want to readily acknowledge that race is still a factor to some people."

In Jacksonville on Tuesday night, Bishop John Guns turned the annual Save Our Sons Thanksgiving food giveaway into a rally against the images coming out of Missouri of violent protests.

More than two dozen African American boys participate in Save Our Sons meetings every week, where they receive guidance and direction. Guns emphasized Tuesday that the teens need to come together peacefully, preaching togetherness on a night when violence in Ferguson, Missouri, continued to draw media attention.

"They are aware of the dangers of being in certain environments and certain situations," Guns said. "So I think that the message becomes get home to your mom and your dad and empowering them to embrace this message."

According to a CNN poll, 54 percent of blacks, Latinos and Asians don't agree with the grand jury's decision not to indict Wilson, but 38 percent of whites think Wilson should not be charged with any crime.

Wilder points out that she thinks Wilson may have been in fear for his life, but questions whether or not he would have chosen to shoot if Brown wasn't African-American.

"There is this pervasive fear of black males, unarmed or not," Wilder said. "But as of late, all the black males that have lost their lives to police, none of them were armed."

In the court of public opinion, Brown's case was tried on TV and social media long before the grand jury met, a scenario Wilder said can be dangerous because rumor is often confused as fact.

With protests and rioting still ongoing in Ferguson, Jacksonville mother Roselyn Wimberly, whose daughter died in car crash while trying to escape police, said she understands the Brown family's loss.

"They are going through this time like I am, with pain and suffering," Wimberly said. "They don't need all this violence going on every day about they want to kill the police, tear gas one another. It doesn't make any sense to me."

Copyright 2014 by News4Jax.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.