Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Getting Rid of Structural Racism; the Killing of Michael Brown

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Getting Rid of Structural Racism; the Killing of Michael Brown

Article excerpt

For decades, structures have existed that created and sustained Ferguson's damaged relationship with its police. They have quietly worked their magic, and brought about the shooting of Michael Brown. They are the structures that create unequal and overwhelmingly disparate outcomes between black and white. They are screaming for attention now, not just in St. Louis County but around the United States. Anger and frustration has its place, but this moment cannot be underestimated for its power to transform. How do we implement long-term change?

Structural racism exists even when individual racism does not. Well-meaning people often put policies and practices into play that have unintended outcomes. We can judge that in anger, or we can reform those policies and practices.

First agreement: We all have bias. It's always present, and when it negatively impacts our interactions with people, we are utterly unconscious about it. Second agreement: We want to brag about our good police colleagues and departments. We want to feel safe where we live. When we need protection, it is the police who will be there for us. Third agreement: This is a two-way conversation. We have individual and collective responsibility to help our police do the best job they can.

I call on our regional police chiefs to consider their general orders, departmental policies, and personal interactions that maintain uneven outcomes. Some of these areas have been mentioned this week. What are your policies around arrest? How do your officers exercise discretion? How can you influence bonds for varied offenses and prevent residents from being caught up in the debtor's prison of the justice system? How can you think out of the box when penalties are not always about fines or jail, especially for youth? How do you train your officers to truly recognize when their bias becomes unlawful discrimination? How often are you meeting with minority community leaders to talk about their concerns? How often are your officers in schools or at community-building events?

I ask all minority community leaders to call your police chiefs, sit down, talk, debate, and learn. …

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