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Related article: 4 Ways to Make the Affirmative Action Planning Process Easier
For many, the uproar over the Ferguson police response to protests in the days following Michael Brown’s killing brought about flashbacks of the struggle for racial justice, which resulted in Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Prior to the Civil Rights Act decades of racial segregation mandated by the Jim Crow laws took place at the state and local level and in all public facilities. The separation eventually led to substandard conditions for African Americans. Discrimination was a natural byproduct of the segregation laws and was evident in housing, bank lending practices, employment, and union practices. African Americans were also denied the right to vote.
The inception of the Civil rights Act paid off for the nonviolent movement led by the Reverend Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. The nonviolent protests succeeded in major accomplishments, including: the judicial victory in Brown v. Board of Education, which abolished the legal doctrine of “separate but equal” and made segregation impermissible; the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that banned discrimination in employment practices and public accommodations; the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and other equally important achievements.
In theory, the Civil Rights Act was a significant evolution in our society. However, the effect of years of oppression and disenfranchisement of African Americans could not possibly dissipate immediately upon the enactment of the 1964 CRA. It will take time to heal and to fulfill the promise of this nation – life, liberty and the equality of opportunity for all.
The images of battle-ready law enforcement personnel confronting peaceful demonstrations in Ferguson were strangely reminiscent of those callous and racist tactics used against protestors during the Civil Rights movement in the 50’s and 60’s. It is a reminder that despite the tremendous progress this nation has made in many areas of race relations, counting the election of the first African American President, we are not quite there yet. Racial segregation in our society persists to this day, and so does the need to address it.
Since the start of the Civil Rights Act, we have witnessed riots that have typically been provoked by police brutality against a minority (mainly Africans Americans) where they feel they are marginalized.
In Fergusson, the police force is nearly all white, as are the elected officials controlling the city government; the population is almost two-thirds African Americans; and these disparities have created a great deal of tension between the police and the African Americans community.
That’s not a natural institutional arrangement. Political bodies tend to at least roughly resemble the electorate. It’s uncommon for majorities to be under-represented as they clearly are in Fergusson.
Demographic shift, coupled with a long institutional lag, is also responsible for the disconnect between the police and the community they serve. Sometimes, that disconnect becomes violent. Young African American men often have good reason to fear the police. They feel subjugated and are routinely targeted by law enforcement even within their own communities.
Conversely, so few of police officers have ever been young African Americans men, exacerbating the extremely high racial tensions.
Municipalities tend to reflect their electorates, but with a lag. The city of Ferguson experienced significant population shifts to mostly African Americans. It is almost impossible to replace current white police officers with African Americans, who are more demographically fitting. Why is that? Here are just a few reasons:
The temporary intervention by installing Capt. Ron Johnson (African American) of the Missouri State Highway Patrol to coordinate law enforcement agencies in Ferguson could help the community stakeholders tackle the racial mismatch between the city officials, including law enforcement, and the majority of population, namely African Americans.
More importantly, the Missouri Highway Patrol administers an Affirmative Action Plan, to monitor and remedy discrimination in employment. Conversely, the city of Ferguson does not seem to have affirmative action planning in place. Evidently, the Missouri Highway Patrol has a better representation of African Americans in its patrol officers.
Reform strategies to consider for future justice and stability:
Affirmative action is a civil rights policy premised on remedying past discrimination and removing discrimination from the process of recruiting and hiring. While affirmative action justifies a race and gender-conscious inclusive approach to hiring in criminal justice. Affirmative Action is not about quotas and does not seek to exclude any candidate based on race or gender. It does seek to ensure that the applicant pool and workforce accurately represent the demographics within the locations in question