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Can a commission like the new one in Ferguson heal a community? It's worked before.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon speaks to media about the protests in Ferguson in August.
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon speaks to media about the protests in Ferguson in August.
Scott Olson / Getty Images

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon on Tuesday announced the creation of the Ferguson Commission, which will study and attempt to address the community's fear and distrust in police and local officials following the August 9 shooting of Michael Brown, St. Louis TV station KSDK reported.

Following the Brown shooting, Ferguson, Missouri, residents took to the streets to protest what they saw as police mistreatment of the St. Louis suburb's majority black community. The demonstrations generally subsided through early September, but they picked up later in the month and particularly in October, as activists pushed new demonstrations dubbed "Ferguson October."

Commissions like the one proposed by Nixon have successfully addressed racial tensions in other parts of the world. The South African government undertook a truth and reconciliation commission to surface and openly discuss any concerns left over by apartheid and take steps to fix the issues. As historian Heather Ann Thompson told Vox's Dara Lind in August, the model also worked in Greensboro, North Carolina:

There were these killings in Greensboro, North Carolina, in 1979, known colloquially as the Greensboro Massacre. This was when the police and the Klan kind of clashed with demonstrators, and people got killed, and it's really just a horrible situation.

They had a truth and reconciliation commission set up to deal with that. It's a really interesting story. What it resulted in was just pages and pages and tons of documents about what the community felt, and what the hell was going on, and who are these police, and what about the Klan?

[Is a Darren Wilson indictment] going to heal? Is that going to change the next kid who gets pulled over and shot? Probably not. The broader question of how communities are policed and how black people are viewed and treated on the streets is fodder for something much more significant that the community needs to engage in.

To learn more about the events in Ferguson, read Vox's explainer and watch the three-minute video below:

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