Ferguson, Missouri, has become a focal point of resistance to police bias and police violence. But a recent study from USA Today shows that the sort of racial disparities in arrests experienced by people of color in Ferguson is not unusual. It’s the norm. At least 1,581 police departments across the country arrest African-American people at higher rates than in Ferguson, according to the study, which is described here.
Whatever the verdict of the grand jury on whether to indict the officer who killed the unarmed teenager Michael Brown…we must commit as a country to address the grotesque system-wide racial disparities in arrests, imprisonment, and sentencing that contaminate our “justice” system. Those disparities form the backdrop to the mass protests that followed this summer’s shooting…and the protests that may meet the grand jury announcement. I believe that protest is best expressed nonviolently. But mass protest can be a catalyst for change. And change is overdue.