Alas, Ferguson did not play into the Justice Department’s hands as liberal Washington must have hoped. Attorney General Holder tried to get around his promise that his department would not “arrive at a particular outcome”1 by editorializing about the DOJ’s findings and pushing the civil rights and race relations envelope:
As detailed in our searing report – also released by the Justice Department today – this investigation found a community that was deeply polarized; a community where deep distrust and hostility often characterized interactions between police and area residents.1
Searing or not, does Washington’s opportunistic take on civil rights and race reflect the “best of American instincts”3 that Martin Luther King, Jr. talked about? Proving civil rights violations can be hard work, it turns out, but shouldn’t a country portrayed as having far-reaching problems with racial bias in its policing be awash in high-profile federal lawsuits?
Selma is civil rights history. Ferguson is political opportunity.
The shameless timing of the release of the DOJ report on Ferguson and the Selma Bloody Sunday anniversary will only be lost on those who stake their fortunes on using civil rights violations, actual and perceived, to keep racism alive in America. The White House reminded us that the “work is far from done”4 as the president passed judgment:
Of course, a more common mistake is to suggest that Ferguson is an isolated incident; that racism is banished; that the work that drew men and women to Selma is now complete, and that whatever racial tensions remain are a consequence of those seeking to play the “race card” for their own purposes. We don’t need the Ferguson report to know that’s not true. We just need to open our eyes, and our ears, and our hearts to know that this nation’s racial history still casts its long shadow upon us.5
We don’t need a Ferguson report to tell us that glasses clinked together all over our nation’s capital when the news of the Missouri police shooting hit the headlines. If the long shadow of race in America is still causing problems, using that pain for political gain is not the solution.
Civil rights violations are hard to create
The press and the Obama administration joined forces on their Ferguson kangaroo court to no avail. Despite the public railroading of the officer involved by the media and activists, no federal suit has been filed yet over civil rights violations in Ferguson. Holder has been persistent, though, and has done his best to use Washington’s propaganda machine to generalize civil rights offenses to the nation.
Obama used the Ferguson opportunity for another of his 21st century initiatives, this one over community policing and a task force created by executive order:
In establishing the task force, the President spoke of the distrust that exists between too many police departments and too many communities – the sense that in a country where our basic principle is equality under the law, too many individuals, particularly young people of color, do not feel as if they are being treated fairly.6
A lot of young people probably feel like they are not being treated fairly, whether they are black, white, Asian, or Native American. The perception of unfair treatment does not mean the police are racist any more than it means civil rights violations are rampant. It could mean that these young people are lapping up reassurances from their government that any problems they encounter are caused by racial bias.
Obama’s policing task force is pushing collaborative relationships between police and their communities. That relationship is never going to work as long as we reinforce the belief in high crime communities that any arrest or even violence by police is grounds for a civil rights challenge.
Opportunity is less important than racism
Civil rights and opportunity mean different things to different people. So does racism. Some of us might even argue that Democrats driving Obama’s hometown to the brink of bankruptcy are denying civil rights to residents in destitute African American communities.
Urban violence is a violation of civil rights for those who want to go to work, educate and raise their kids in peace, especially for those who end up deprived of their lives (see: Politics and Responsibility Fail in the Black Community. That is a much larger scourge than anything the DOJ and White House can trump up, no matter how hard they want to prove that little has changed since Selma. Destroyed urban communities contradict everything liberal Democrats believe about economics in America, so don’t expect to hear too much about the problem because racism makes better headlines. The race and civil rights straw man has a much bigger payoff.