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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

(Op/Ed) Post Ferguson – It’s More Than Michael Brown


Photo Credit - IU News & Talk Students at the University of Michigan participate in a #BlackLivesMatter Protest in Late November 2014
Photo Credit - IU News & Talk
Students at the University of Michigan participate in a #BlackLivesMatter
Protest in Late November 2014

Crosspost by Michael Allen from the Blog Allen Insight

For many African Americans, the refusal by a grand jury to file criminal charges against white police officer, Darren Wilson, in the shooting death of unarmed Michael Brown has become a symbol of America’s basic unfairness.

In a nutshell: white Americans most often are given the benefit of the doubt and African Americans most often are not. And the image (true or not) of Michael Brown on his knees with his hands in the air and being shot to death by a police officer resonates with millions of African Americans. Why? Because this image (true or not) rings true with the real racism African Americans experience today.


Unlike the past, we can now measure with science, the barriers African Americans face in obtaining employment, housing, education, and fair treatment in the criminal justice system. And the data is not pretty.

 These barriers are real, enormous, unjustified, and widespread. Through no fault of their own, African Americans experience persistent discrimination and unequal opportunities throughout American society. And those who suffer most from these economic and social barriers are African Americans with the lowest incomes.


Conservative whites and at least a few Republican politicians will quickly respond that most of the problems suffered by African Americans are self inflicted. But these conservatives refuse to admit that the sociologists who study racism know what they are doing. These researchers design their test cases with both white and black testers who are equally matched in education, language skills, and demeanor. And the results are always the same.

Whether it is for a job interview or an application for rental housing, the bias is always there. Not in every single test run. But over many test runs, the bias to the white testers is measurable, consistent, and strong. And there is nothing the African American tester can do to overcome his blackness. Nothing he can do to be treated as an equal to his white counterpart. This is also the core of what Ferguson is about: not being treated as an equal in America.


For many conservative whites and at least a few Republican politicians, the refusal by the grand jury to indict Officer Darren Wilson is an exoneration of America itself – its criminal justice system, its economic system, and it’s societal fairness.

For these conservative whites, the legitimate grievances of African Americans are easily dismissed as ‘having nothing to do with this case.’ And Michael Brown becomes a symbol and a confirmation that the problems within the African American community are all ‘self inflicted’. This is the deep denial which allows racial discrimination to fester in American society today.


America has made many great strides, but still has many difficult steps ahead to finally fulfill its promise of ‘liberty and justice for all.’ There are neither quick fixes nor easy solutions. But there are many government policies which would make America more just for all races.

Government policies which tighten labor markets to drive down unemployment and drive up wages would help a lot. The implementation of the Obamacare Medicaid expansion in the southern states would help a lot in the South. Better access to good public schools, better policing strategies, and more diverse police departments would also help.


But nearly all of these policies are opposed by the Republican Party. So to take more strides to reduce racial inequality, we probably need to elect many more Democrats. And at the very least, we must challenge our current elected officials to admit that Ferguson isn’t all about Michael Brown. Ferguson is about us, and Ferguson is about America.

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