Justice Department's Ferguson Findings May Show How Systemic Racism Has Become

March 2nd 2015

Alicia Lutes

The New York Times is reporting the imminent arrival of the Justice Department's surveying of Ferguson, Missouri in the wake of the Mike Brown shooting — and it's probably going to make a lot of people upset, if alleged details of its contents are to be believed.

Though it is said Darren Wilson, the white officer who shot and killed an unarmed Mike Brown, will allegedly be cleared of any potential civil rights wrongdoing, it doesn't mean Attorney General Eric Holder's office is letting Ferguson itself off scot-free.

According to the Times, the findings will come down hard on the myriad — and systemic — ways in which the town not only unfairly targets, but profits off the backs of its black community. "Blacks accounted for 86 percent of traffic stops in 2013 but make up 63 percent of the population, according to the most recent data published by the Missouri attorney general," the Times piece reports. "And once they were stopped, black drivers were twice as likely to be searched, even though searches of white drivers were more likely to turn up contraband."

The following video from Demos illustrates many of the policy injustices in Ferguson:

But back to that last part again: "...even though searches of white drivers were more likely to turn up contraband. " This is the definition of insidious, systemic racism. And it's all based on the subconscious and/or internal belief of a person or people — whether taught or learned through negative experience — that somehow, white people are more trustworthy and honorable, despite proof to the contrary.

But that's not even the worst part of it — Ferguson has, in the creation of this system, profited, big time. Because, as the paper states, "for people in Ferguson who cannot afford to pay their tickets, routine traffic stops can become yearslong ordeals, with repeated imprisonments because of mounting fines."

And perhaps most telling is the second part of that statement: "Such fines are the city’s second-largest source of revenue after sales tax. Federal investigators say that has provided a financial incentive to continue law enforcement policies that unfairly target African-Americans."

Generating revenue off the less fortunate is a long standing exploitation. In the criminal justice system, it is evidenced by our country's jail demographics and the fact that even our prisons are becoming for-profit. An idea that some may argue benefits capitalism, but ultimately neglects many inmates from basic human care and proper treatment. For-profit jail systems are making billions and yet things within their walls continue to get worse 

It would be completely understandable — maybe even cathartic — to sit here and stew angrily about yet another instance of injustice for black people in this country, but if there's any upside to Holder's report, it's that it sounds like it might just outline exactly, and systemically, the ways in which Ferguson (and in turn, the country) hurts poor minorities. If we don't look inward and have the subsequent tough conversation about race and how our systems help proliferate it, we're never going to fix this problem.We live in an increasingly privatized nation, for better or for worse — it just sucks that the "for worse" often falls, burden-wise, on the backs of those who can already barely afford to survive.