The work of progress is unfinished in Ferguson and in the rest of the country. No one is coming to save us from racist violence: We have to save each other.
This month marks the fifth anniversary of the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teenager who was killed by Darren Wilson, a white police officer who was never brought to justice. (His family settled a civil lawsuit in June 2017). The grand jury decided not to indict him and Wilson resigned. Michael Brown’s father wants the investigation reopened.
Less than a month after Brown was killed, the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice under then-Attorney General Eric Holder opened an investigation. The investigation resulted in the publication of the Ferguson Report. In it we learned about the significant revenue Ferguson, Missouri, took from its Black citizens in the form of fines and fees that propped up the municipal court system. We also learned about the unfair treatment meted out by the criminal justice system to the Black citizens of Ferguson.
Five years later, there have been improvements in Ferguson, along with setbacks. That is also true for Black and Latinx people in the rest of the country. Today we see a world where Latinx people are targeted as “invaders” by the president — and that language appeared in the El Paso shooter’s suspected manifesto. We have a president who targets women of color who are members of Congress.
Attorney General Bill Barr states that he is “deeply concerned about the rise in hate crimes and political violence” but has done nothing to combat it. He has not asked the Civil Rights Division to investigate the increase in hate crimes. Barr in his confirmation hearings testified that the criminal justice system treats Blacks and whites fairly. We can’t expect any help from him.
Some good has come after Ferguson. A Black prosecutor was sworn into office in Ferguson earlier this year. In a Democratic primary in 2018, Wesley Bell defeated Robert McCulloch, the white prosecutor who declined to charge Wilson. Five years later the police department, according to the New York Times, has increased the number of Black officers from four to 21. And yet, as the Times reports, Blacks are still ticketed at higher rates than whites in traffic stops. Since 2013, the likelihood of Blacks being stopped has increased, while that of whites has decreased.
In 2015, the state of Missouri passed a law that limited the percentage of revenue that could be raised from fines and fees. The results have been dramatic — municipal courts statewide collected 45% less in fines compared with 2013. The number of warrants issued statewide decreased by 18%. One of the champions of the bill was a Republican who is now the state’s attorney general. Missouri voters passed a $12 minimum wage in 2018.
There is at least one more silver lining in all this, though perhaps an ironic one. President Donald Trump’s long history of bigotry is uniting more Americans across racial lines.
For example, according to Pew, most Blacks, Hispanics and Asians say Trump has made race relations worse, compared with just under half (49%) of whites.
A majority of Americans say race relations are bad: 71% of Blacks, 60% of Hispanics and 56% of whites.
More than half of whites along with Asians, Blacks and Hispanics view being white as an advantage when it comes to a person’s ability to get ahead.
But there is still more work to be done.
Almost eight in 10 Blacks say America hasn’t gone far enough in giving Blacks equal rights with whites compared with almost four in 10 whites, and almost half of Hispanics. If the last five years have taught us anything, it’s that we cannot stop now and we can never give up. — (CNN)