Thursday, March 5, 2015

DOJ v Ferguson

     I listened to Eric Holder's DOJ Findings on Ferguson press conference. I listened from the perspective of someone living just a few miles away and one who's seen some of the same abuses firsthand.

     My wife got caught up in one of Ferguson's neighbor's aggressive traffic enforcements. In Missouri, city police can write tickets on Interstates going through their city, and the burg's cop got my wife.  She swears she wasn't speeding... much. And I believe... well, I... I take the Fifth. She also got tagged for other violations. It was exactly like Holder depicted.

     She was ordered to appear in the city's court, a seedy little justice mill in an old bar. It was in a really sketchy area, so I was dragged along as the sacrificial meat shield. With about 90-110 other defendants, we waited while the judge described her town's particular version of jurisprudence. To paraphrase mightily: You're probably guilty. You could ask for a trail, but it would be expensive, inconvenient, and most likely futile. It would be so much easier if you threw your wallet on the mercy of the court. Justice takes cash, checks, American Express, Visa or Master Card, and easy payments at reasonable rates can be arranged. See the cashier in the back.   

     It was all as Holder described. More than 95% of the defendants were African-American. The condemned awaited their fate with surly resignation. Justice was curt, perfunctory and cynical. The defendants were separated from their money as efficiently as a pig from it's blood in a slaughterhouse.

     It was exactly as Holder described: an abusive, grasping, uncaring, racist system.

     Except, it wasn't. Not completely.  

     The judge was African-American. All but one of the many court officers and workers were minorities. The police commander was Black. The police security team was entirely Black. Furthermore, the city itself boasts an African-American Mayor and a totally Black City Council.  

     Abusive? Yes. Money Hungry? Certainly. Racist? Are you serious?

     Holder made much of Ferguson's unjust city justice system. In this I believe he's correct. However, to damn all of Ferguson as racist - based on behaviors that can be shown as being anything but, is fundamentally incorrect.  I haven't read the 110 page report yet, but it's seeming reliance on simple, unnormalized statistics and unsupported conclusions is troubling. Given the history of Holder and the Obama administrations willingness to play on race, this may be just another instance of their  elaborate racialist posturing. 

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