Ferguson is a Window to the New Jim Crow


By Mark Naison

Our political leaders and the business elites they serve are hoping the passionate discourse about police practices, race and class inspired by the death of Mike Brown and the events that followed will disappear and fade into the background the way Occupy Wall Street did when its encampments were evicted. They are probably right.

They are working hard to persuade people that what took place was an unfortunate occurrence and that justice will ultimately be served when ongoing investigations are completed. They are guessing that most people’s attention spans will be directed elsewhere after the summer ends.

But justice will NOT be served, not in Ferguson or anywhere else, but ignoring growing inequality in the United States, the shrinking of the middle class, and the concentration of wealth at the top. Those are the underlying conditions which have shaped the growing militarization of police and the use of police power to contain marginalized, hyper segregated portions of the population. The images don’t lie. The protests against Michael Brown’s death provide a window into the society we have become in the era of “The New Jim Crow” the way Dr King’s protests in Birmingham in 1963 provided a window into the brutality of Southern segregation. What we do with those images only time will tell.

When Dr King started speaking out against the War in Vietnam, he was attacked by many civil rights leaders for straying from his mission and jeopardizing the great movement he did so much to build. Dr King replied that his mission was to speak out against injustice wherever it could be found. He was right. No one’s conscience should be compartmentalized. And injustice has a way of spreading far beyond its intended targets.

From Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”

“So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice . . .. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.”

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