By Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) report on the Ferguson, Mo. Police Department sheds a brighter light on a serious racial injustice malignancy that is not isolated or unique to that besieged city. What the Justice Department concluded in Ferguson, after months of intense investigation, exposes a systematic pattern of injustice and inequality that can actually be found in many cities across the nation.
This federal report presented facts with years of supporting data that revealed how racism was the decisive phenomenon in how the police and courts dealt disparagingly with Black Americans.
Racial disparities in police departments and in judicial systems are not just local problems in a few municipalities that have been exposed as a result of a pattern of racial discrimination. This is a national problem that has persisted for decades in the United States. The absence of a cumulative national database on racially motivated police brutality and on judicial racial inequity is a contributing factor to this disgusting yet persistent societal contradiction.
The Justice Department report concluded, “These disparities occur, at least in part, because Ferguson law enforcement practices are directly shaped and perpetuated by racial bias.”
The good news is that in the aftermath of the details made public by the Justice Department provides a second opportunity for a more thorough national investigation. Racial justice activists and organizations should demand that the federal government perform a national investigation and audit of all major police departments and judicial systems concerning racial profiling, discrimination, abuse, police violence, prosecutorial misconduct and other forms of injustice based on race.
Of course, most of us already know what the outcome of such a new national study would surely reveal. Black Americans and other people of color in the United States continued to endure long-term patterns of racial injustice not just in the so-called “criminal justice system,” but also in systems of health care, employment, housing, education, finance, and in exposures to multiple environmental hazards and toxicities.
Systematic racism in America has not and does not occur my osmosis. It is intentional and deliberate. It is the result of the “power” of imposed and unabridged institutionalized racial bias, discrimination, bigotry, hatred, stereotyping and ignorance.
Another important and remarkable “revelation” of the DOJ report on Ferguson was the economic greed of that form of systematic racism. The report stated, “Ferguson’s law enforcement practices are shaped by the City’s focus on revenue rather than by public safety needs. This emphasis on revenue has compromised the institutional character of Ferguson’s police department, contributing to a pattern of unconstitutional policing, and has also shaped its municipal court, leading to procedures that raise due process concerns and inflict unnecessary harm on members of the Ferguson community.”
The “harm” to the Ferguson community was and continues to be overwhelmingly targeted on Black Americans. Millions of dollars have been unjustly taken from the Black community in Ferguson and surrounding areas of St. Louis County as a direct result of the “unconstitutional” and illegal acts of police and court officials. Will the victims of the racism in Ferguson who have been financially fleeced and extorted by the law enforcement system be repaid or compensated?
The family of young unarmed Michael Brown who was unjustly killed by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson is going forward with a massive civil suit against Wilson, the police and the court system in Ferguson. The DOJ report should be used as conclusive evidence of the pattern and system of racial wrong doing in Ferguson.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder did the right thing by ordering the DOJ investigation. Holder kept his public promise to stand by the people of Ferguson. In fact to the credit of his outstanding leadership at the DOJ, there have been more that 20 DOJ civil rights investigations into various other police departments in the U.S. during Holder’s tenure as Attorney General. Holder reaffirmed, “I again commit to the people of Ferguson that we will continue to stand with you and to work with you to ensure that the necessary reforms are implemented.”
Thus, the struggle for racial justice continues in Ferguson and across the nation. The antidote to systematic racism in America is to support and empower Black Americans and other people of color in the transformation of the system of injustice in the U.S. into a fair and unbiased system of justice and equality for all people.
Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. is the President and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and can be reached for national advertisement sales and partnership proposals at: firstname.lastname@example.org; and for lectures and other professional consultations at: http://drbenjaminfchavisjr.wix.com/drbfc.