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A civil rights icon shares his thoughts on Ferguson




Terrance Roberts, one member of the Little Rock Nine.
Terrance Roberts, one member of the Little Rock Nine.
Terrance Roberts

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The case of Michael Brown's shooting death has sparked racial tensions throughout Ferguson, Missouri.

Meanwhile, many images that the rest of the country sees -- black demonstrators squaring off with white police officers in riot gear -- are reminiscent of a time long ago: the Civil Rights Era.

Events like this show that, despite America coming far, there are places where things have not changed much for African-Americans.

Terrence Roberts knows this well.

In 1957, he was one of nine black students to enroll at the all-white Little Rock Central High School, dubbed the Little Rock Nine.

Even though Brown's own actions in the incident have come into question, Roberts says that just feeds into the national narrative on race.

"Young black men are criminals — Michael Brown met his death in part because of that way of thinking," says Roberts. "Can you imagine a police officer accosting non-black youth in the street and using the same approach? I don't think so."

For example, he cites a study conducted by UCLA that shows black children are seen as less innocent than white kids their same age.

"When children lose their innocence in the eyes of the law, they are more vulnerable than ever," says Roberts.

Terrence Roberts also says that the fight for civil rights didn't end back in the 1950s and 1960s when he was a child: It continues today.

"The narrative to date suggests that there was racism in our society — we used to be quite racist — but that is all gone and we should get on with the business as if that's true," he says. "Well, the movement in Ferguson alerts us, along with other movements, that it is not true."