One year after black teenager Michael Brown was shot and killed in Ferguson, Missouri by a white police officer, sparking protests and a year of heightened attention to the issue of police treatment of the black community, public attitude has far outpaced legislative change, the president of the NAACP said Sunday.
"There has been a seismic shift in American attitude but only a glacial shift in legislative action," Cornell William Brooks said on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday. He said that while 60 percent of Americans say there is a need for "fundamental change" in equal rights in America, just 40 percent of legislatures have taken even some action to hold police departments accountable.
Brooks also said that Congress has taken steps toward counting the number of deaths of black Americans at the hands of police, but have not actually taken any action.
"We know where communities are the subject of police protection as opposed to objects of suspicious police officers are safer as are communities, but we have not seen action," Brooks said.
The NAACP and others are participating in a march called "America's Journey for Justice" that began in Selma, Alabama earlier this month and will end in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 15 to call on Congress to act.
He said the marchers want Congress to pass laws to end racial profiling and increase accountability for police officers, and they want communities to retrain their officers and use evidence-based strategies for policing.
"We have to call on police departments to not engage in racial profiling which they're free to do now," he said. "These things that we're calling on Congress to do are in fact time tested and work but we've got to have action."
Brooks said the last year, which has seen the deaths of Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Eric Garner and others has given rise to "a generation of young practitioners of democracy, young people who are taking the power of this democracy in their hands and taking to the streets."
"We're seeing older people do the same, so we're seeing this multi-generational army of activists," he said.
That activism has included confronting presidential candidates - usually Democrats - over their response to the "Black Lives Matter" movement.
"The point here is not how polite our activists are but how responsive our politicians are," Brooks said. "When you have an 18-year-old who's frustrated, who wants to see politicians step up and bring this tragedy to the end, you can call on them to be more polite or you can actually get something done. We are calling on Congress to get something done."
Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, the Democratic presidential candidate who saw protesters take over one of his campaign events over the weekend, said that economic inequality and institutional racism are parallel problems that must be addressed.
Brooks said that both issues play a part, but black men are still far more likely to die at the hands of police than their white counterparts.
"As we saw in Baltimore when neighborhoods go up in flames, when young people lose their lives and they are surrounded by poverty and by economic desperation it's a class issue as well as a race issue, but fundamentally it is an American issue, " he said. "We don't have to have this conversation a year from now if we take action now."
He also said the NAACP is calling on presidential candidates to protect the right to vote. Last week marked the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, which was partially gutted by the Supreme Court in 2013.