Amid numerous protests and weeks of racial turmoil, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) made a stop in Ferguson, Missouri, to voice his concern.
Paul, who is the first potential presidential contender to make such a visit, sat down for a "listening session" with civil rights leaders in light of the town's August shooting of a black teen by a white police officer. He shared his thoughts on the criminal justice system and listened to community concerns, with the hope that the "visit would help him understand how the government could 'lessen the tension and anger,'" Politico reported.
The Kentucky senator's visit fits neatly into the Republican Party's larger effort to better reach out to minorities in upcoming elections, a keystone particular to Paul's campaign. As Time points out, Paul's visit is a "reminder of how his position on criminal justice reform can make a Republican more palatable to the African-American community."
According to Time, Paul's concerns include "long prison sentences for nonviolent crimes, the loss of voting rights for felons and military programs to give unused equipment to local police departments." In short, Paul believes that the "underlying problem in Ferguson — and many other troubled areas of our country — is a broken justice system that unfairly targets minorities," the senator's office said.
This isn't the first time that Paul has attempted to connect with minority audiences. In April 2013 he visited Howard University to work towards bridging the political gap and to dispel his portrayal by left-wing media, which has highlighted his blunders and "less-than-accurate recounting of his history with the Civil Rights Act," the Washington Post reported.
But whether or not Paul's Ferguson visit was a campaign ploy, his efforts at starting a conversation and a search for a solution are laudable. With another young black man shot in St. Louis just this week, the nation's issues with police brutality and troubled race relations can't keep festering undiscussed.