Posted by: rudyruddell | November 27, 2014


I am a news junkie, therefore I have been listening, reading, and thinking about Ferguson and I need to put some things down in writing to crystalize my thoughts. Why did Michael Brown get killed and riots break out nationwide? I have heard both sides of the story and I can see that it might have been a case of racism on the part of Wilson or perhaps Wilson’s version is true and that he had no choice but to shoot to kill. Because Wilson was not indicted, we will never find out what a jury might have concluded. Although I do not condone the violence, riots were bound to happen if there were the slightest doubt of Wilson’s innocence because the rioting is inevitable in a society in which institutionalized racism has calcified. Our nation’s racism has gone undercover because intellectually, we know it is wrong to be openly so. But lately, I have felt hope that some voices in the system are starting to speak out. I am hopeful now that my grandchildren, if they survive climate change, will live in a nation that is aware of the institutionalized racism and is undergoing rehabilitation to solve it.

The story of course begins in 1619 with the beginning of slavery in North America ( After the Civil War, our nation had a chance to do the right thing and include the African Americans in our society by living up to General Sherman’s promise of 40 acres to Freedmen in Georgia, thereby including them in the primary source of wealth accumulation in America. Or perhaps things would have been different if the Freedmen’s Bureau had continued to improve the educational lives of black people or if Republicans had not compromised in the Election of 1876 and ended Reconstruction in 1877. The United States had many opportunities to prevent the alienation and oppression of African Americans, but none of these chances were taken. Now we are left with the legacy of disenfranchisement and institutionalized racism.

Many people argue that we are passed the racism of the past and that we should be color-blind, but that is based on the presumption that this was all caused by our great grandparents. It was not. Segregated education was happening in my lifetime. Redlining and covenants and restrictions continued to keep African Americans out of white people’s source of wealth, real estate into the 60s. At that time, due to the Civil Rights Movement, racism had to go under cover and it did in the form of the War on Drugs as outlined in Michelle Alexander’s impactful book, “The New Jim Crow.” ( ) Alexander outlined step by step how Reagan’s war on drugs led to disenfranchisement of black people via the penal code and federally subsidized militarization of the police. Even black people hate crime and supported the war on drugs, but, because of being blocked out of the wealth machine of real estate and therefore kept out of good schools, African Americans were living in ghettos where they could easily be swept up and put in the penal system where they were sentenced to spend their lives, even upon exiting prison. This new system was able to do this without being overtly racist.

Today, however, partially as a result of Alexander’s work, more people in power are aware of this institutionalized racism. Even libertarian Republican Rand Paul, Senator from Kentucky is now publically advocating for reforming the penal system and ending the war on drugs. Newt Ginrich and Chris Christie have also joined in the chorus to end the war on drugs. ( ) This is not to mention democrats such as Elizabeth Warrren and Bernie Sanders who also favor prison reform

Ferguson riots happened because such violence happens when a group of people are made voiceless through disenfranchisement. This covert racist system is deeply entrenched. Like the oil industry’s grip on the perpetuation of climate change, the prison-for-hire system also has the status quo ensured for years to come. Events like Ferguson focus attention on the problem and force more people to seek permanent solutions. When they do seek these solutions and see that the root cause is the war on drugs, more and more politicians will join the bandwagon and propel us toward positive change. This is what gives me hope for a more equal society in the United States.



  1. I like your angle, Dwight. Lot of on-point things expressed here.

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