Six points about Ferguson, the Eric Garner chokehold case in New York, the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, and the eagerness to outfit police officers with body cameras:

1. Post-Ferguson America: This is obviously not the post-racial America many envisioned with the election and re-election of Barack Obama and the wider acceptance of interracial marriage. But we are certainly in post-Ferguson America, demonstrated by the racial and class diversity of people protesting — or at least disturbed by — the deaths of unarmed black men by police. Many whites resent the protests and the accusations of racism. But what's encouraging are the growing numbers of millennials reacting to a concern of people they know, went to school with, or work with. As a result, racial profiling, police brutality, the use of deadly force — for them, these are not just "black issues," but things that affect their friends, classmates and co-workers. The Michael Brown and Garner cases have raised those issues to a new level of awareness, outrage and empathy among a broader spectrum of Americans. Call that wishful thinking, if you want. It's real.

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2. The war on drugs got us here: What we are seeing is the possibly historic push to a tipping point — not against police, but against the long war they have been ordered to prosecute since the time of Ronald Reagan. Many common-sense Americans, including Clintonesque Democrats and law-and-order conservatives who supported the war in all its facets (zero-tolerance policing, mandatory-minimum sentencing), have come to see the problems with it: the mass arrests, the emphasis on punishment over addiction treatment; the familial and community instability created by the cycle of incarceration and unemployment; the futility of trying to stop an underground commerce based on government-enforced prohibitions; and the cost to taxpayers of high recidivism rates. The nation's longest war has been fought primarily against drug dealers and the people, largely poor, who use what they sell. Our prisons are disproportionately filled with black men. Despite official efforts to curtail racial profiling, young black men remain the primary targets; they are 21 times more likely to be shot by police than their white counterparts, according to a ProPublica analysis of federal data. This is all part of the legacy of the war on drugs.

3. Social media revolution: In case it was not previously clear, we have reached a time of super-vigilance, with cellphone cameras feeding social media and representing a new grassroots power that has splashed light on problems in ways we have never seen before. That genie has been loose for a while, but we're still getting used to the world it created — the almost constant digital scrutiny that forces people once comfortably detached from social problems to think, speak, act, even take to the streets.

4. All those guns: We talk about the Brown and Rice tragedies in terms of race and the use of deadly force by police. But look at the role of guns. Look at the millions of guns, real and fake, that infest the culture at all levels (including toys, video games, TV, movies) and put so many Americans at risk in so many different ways. The nation has almost as many guns as citizens; no wonder the police have their fingers on triggers. The combination of the war on drugs, which forces police into daily contact with people who are selling or using contraband, and the rise in firepower on the street heightens tensions and increases the risk of injury or death to all involved. Let's have the much-needed talk about racism, justice and police training. But guns are a huge part of this problem. Props to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Police Commissioner Anthony Batts for rolling out a new bounty program for illegal guns, asking citizens to get involved in making their neighbors safer — for themselves, and for their cops.

5. Body cameras: Both the mayor and now Kevin Kamenetz, the Baltimore County executive, say they support outfitting police officers with body cameras so there is a video record of their encounters with citizens. Part of the logic is that this will force police to conduct themselves professionally and reduce instances of abusive or brutal behavior. But a grand jury in New York just declined to indict an officer whose chokehold of Eric Garner, who was allegedly selling single cigarettes — contraband! — resulted in death. We saw the whole thing on a bystander's video, and still no indictment. So, convincing the public that body cameras will get us closer to justice is a tough sell right now.

6. Prosecutorial independence: If local politicians and police want to build trust quickly, they should endorse the use of independent prosecutors — not the local state's attorney — for all grand jury investigations of police officers who cause a citizen's death. The national organizations of mayors, police chiefs, police officers and district attorneys should get behind that. Appoint special prosecutors, or just bring in the feds — either way is wise and essential in post-Ferguson America.

Dan Rodricks column runs Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. He is the host of "Midday" on WYPR-FM.

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