As the nation awaits a grand jury decision in the case of Ferguson, Mo., police Officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug. 9, Mayor James Knowles sat down with Al-Jazeera America Monday to try to clarify the assertion he made months earlier that “there are no racial divides” in Ferguson, Mediaite reports.
What Knowles meant, he explained, was not that there were no racial divides but that any divide in his community was the result of socioeconomic factors.
“[There are] clearly racial divides, there’s clearly divides all across the country, but I didn’t see the divide in our community so much as race, but a lot of it is socioeconomic,” he said in an interview clip. “It does disproportionately affect African Americans, so among that, yes, absolutely there’s a racial divide there. The characterization that Ferguson was somehow just a powder keg ready to explode and it’s a Ferguson problem is what I really was trying to take exception with.”
While he acknowledged that black residents of the town have “a different life experience in general than a white resident probably does,” he insisted that the stereotypical racial tensions don’t play out in Ferguson.
“We do not see white residents and African-American residents looking at each other with a cautious eye or scared of each other on a daily basis,” he added.
In a transcript provided by Al-Jazeera America, the mayor said that he regretted his comments because it was a difficult argument to have, but once again insisted that “those differences [don’t] mean this community didn’t have good race relations before this happened,” referring to Brown’s death.
When asked about his hope for the grand jury outcome, Knowles said he didn’t care “one way or the other what the outcome is, as long as it’s the legal and fair outcome under the law.”
“Whatever happens, my hope is that we can move forward as soon as possible on the healing, because an enormous number of things have come to light. And we need to be having conversations about those issues, too,” he added. “If there’s more protests that can become unruly or become violent, that’s going to take away from the opportunity here to make lasting change to keep things like this from happening in the future.”
The mayor says that he hadn’t spoken to Wilson, and he wouldn’t tell Al-Jazeera America what he would say to him if they ever met, saying that it would be a “pretty private conversation.”