A bad economy fuels racism

By | March 19, 2015

The Justice Department’s stunning report on Ferguson, Missouri, has so far resulted in the ouster of the city manager and the resignation of the police chief. If you’ve followed the news, you’ve probably heard some of its twisted tales. In his press conference on the report, departing Attorney General Eric Holder told the Kafkaesque story of how a poor and sometimes homeless African-American woman endured a seven-year odyssey of harassment after receiving a $151 ticket for parking her car in the wrong place. She spent a week in jail and paid fines totaling $550 to the city — and she still owed $541 as of December.

“Inexplicable,” Holder remarked.

But is it? Perhaps not when you consider how racial tension and economic hardship feed off each other. According to a Brookings Institution report, Ferguson, like so many communities in America, has been hit with multiple economic shocks in recent years, including a skyrocketing unemployment rate, average earnings falling by a third and increased concentrations of poverty in poor neighborhoods. These trends have been driven by policies of austerity and deregulation that have created economic instability in the U.S., resulting in more severe and frequent economic downturns that suck public coffers dry, increase inequality and heighten insecurity — all of which tend to stoke racism. (Al Jazeera America)

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