Race Matters: Ferguson to Chicago


On August 9, 2014, Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, and yet public outcry has not faded away. Ferguson has uncovered deeply-rooted social disparities existing in many U.S. communities. The constant stream of stories of violence in marginalized communities reveal undercurrents of systemic injustice rooted in racism and economic inequality.

The stories of Trayvon Martin, Ezell Ford, Eric Garner, and Michael Brown resonate with people of color living in Chicago. In our communities, experiencing harassment by those responsible with your safety and being stopped or detained without any other reason than the color of your skin is all too commonplace. African Americans are 15 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession and 40 times more likely to plead or be found guilty, according to an analysis of police and court data byThe Chicago Reader. Social and racial inequalities are directly expressed in the brokenness of the U.S. criminal justice system, often referred to as the new Jim Crow. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, one in three black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetimes.

Race matters in how people experience and perceive our legal system. Like in Ferguson, young leaders in our communities report needing to be protected from the police, instead of by the police. The Chicago Reporter, a publication of Community Renewal Society (CRS), has done groundbreaking work on the lack of accountability of the Chicago Police in matters of discrimination and misconduct. These issues are gaining consistent national press coverage, which provides an opportunity to raise public awareness of this particular form of institutionalized racism and challenges us to respond.

Through the FORCE (Fighting to Overcome Records and Create Equality) Project and Reclaim Campaign, CRS works to bring systematic change to our criminal justice system. We have had recent significant victories, yet in light of the events like Ferguson–that also take place in our own city–we know that we must continue to address blatantly discriminatory law enforcement practices. Equal protection under the law is a human and moral right, but people of color are often still denied justice by our law enforcement system.

The majority of CRS employees, board members, and leaders are persons of color and therefore, at risk. On August 16, 2014, a FORCE leader was traveling to the South Side to do voter registration canvassing when police pulled him over, in what seems to be a case of racial profiling without probable cause. He says he was never told why he was stopped, and instead was dragged out of his car, treated roughly, and arrested. This is personal. It affects our communities, our friends, us. And as people of faith we declare that racism is an affront to God. CRS is committed to do everything that we can to support our FORCE leader in his quest for justice. We are raising money to help CRS community leaders and staff work on these complex issues.

Click here to stand with FORCE and make a donation. Your donation will help us work together to build power and uproot systemic injustice.