March 11, 2015


Best-selling author Michelle Alexander is a highly intelligent communicator. Her voice also has a quiver to it which makes it almost seem as if she's gearing up to burst into tears. And she's not discussing a light topic. In two parts, this is must-see TV as an analysis of what the damning reports on Ferguson's racist police force mean. Because many of you will not watch it, here's a few of her most interesting points.

The Justice Department report confirms every suspicion and proves that the many marchers weren't crazy. Blacks are unfairly targeted and police who kill them get off scot-free. And blacks are picked up way more than whites, despite the fact that in Ferguson, whites are more likely to have guns or drugs when stopped. So this makes no sense.

Racism doesn't just affect Ferguson's PD. NYC's statistics rival Ferguson's in some respects. And we have a mayor with a black son who campaigned on addressing this very issue!

The arrests and fines account for a large percentage of Ferguson's city budget. So while they blacks are unfairly targeted due to prejudice, there is also a financial incentive to arrest someone--anyone. Michelle links this to private prisons where latinos are held and notes it's roots in slavery. Very scary--the notion that someone wants to make money off of incarcerating, fining and arresting us. With money as the police's motive, this has as much to do with greed as with prejudice. And if that greed is there, why limit it to blacks when you can milk any community of gays, trans, immigrants, muslims, etc. It's a perversion of law enforcement to prosecute not what deserves prosecution, but what will earn $.

Finally, Michelle is asked if things have changed under Obama. While she says the optics of having a black president is beneficial, having one who actually addressed the issue of racial profiling rather than just talking the talk is what's needed.

"You know, the reality is that the rhetoric has changed in the Obama administration, but when you take a look at the policies, they’ve been much, much slower to change. So, you know, under the Obama administration, we’ve heard consecutive drugs czars say that we should no longer be at war with our own people, you know, saying we don’t like the language of the drug war. But then when you look at the drug war budget, basically the same ratio of dollars is invested in enforcement, as opposed to treatment and prevention, as under the Bush administrations and earlier administrations. And so, you know, I think that it’s very tempting to imagine that more progress has been achieved when there is an African American in the White House and a black attorney general saying all the right things, but I think we have to not be so easily seduced by the imagery and insist upon the kind of large-scale policy reform and structural reform and in end to the actual war on drugs, not the language."