Monday, September 21, 2015

RACE IN AMERICA - Ferguson Commission Report

"What we’ve learned about racial inequity in Ferguson" PBS NewsHour 9/14/2015


SUMMARY:  A new report by the Ferguson Commission, appointed to respond to racial inequity, calls for 200 changes to policing, education, housing, health care access and more across St. Louis and Missouri.  Gwen Ifill discusses the reform recommendations with Rev. Starsky Wilson of the Ferguson Commission and Maria Chappelle-Nadal, a Missouri state senator.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  Just over a year after the city of Ferguson, Missouri, exploded in unrest after the killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, by Darren Wilson, a white police officer, a local commission today released a blunt new report.

Focusing on race, inequity and history, the 16-member Ferguson Commission issued 189 calls to action, including improvements in police practices, education, housing, and health care access.

“What we are pointing out,” the commission concluded, “is that the data suggests, time and again, that our institutions and existing systems are not equal, and that this has racial repercussions.”

Joining me now to discuss the report and its possible impact are commission co-chair the Reverend Starsky Wilson, and Missouri State Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal.

Thank you both for joining us.

So, call to action, Reverend Wilson.  What was the single most surprising and the single least surprising thing that you found in this report?

REV. STARSKY WILSON, The Ferguson Commission:  Well, thank you for having us on.

First, quite frankly, the most surprising thing was that so many people lived in enclaves of comfort without understanding that folks just five, 10 miles away live in Third World circumstances when you talk about health outcomes, life expectancy.

It was surprising to note that there is a $15 billion cost in our regional gross domestic product for these racial inequities that we see in our community.  It was surprising to note that we are 42nd among the top 50 metropolitan areas in the nation in economic mobility, the capacity for a child to do better than their parents.

And so, with those surprises, I was shocked a little bit as we went throughout the process as this — that there are so many people of such goodwill to be able to come around these issues when they came to know about the issues, when they recognized the challenges, to actually be a part of the process.

And so we’re pleased that the process, this bold experiment and inclusive democracy has produced a result in this report, in these recommendations.  And now it’s time to aggressively pursue them through activism, advocacy and agitation, quite frankly, of power structures that can make them happen.

GWEN IFILL:  Senator Maria Nadal, was this — were the findings here about the structure of way the city, the state, the region is structured, or is it about something more profound than that?

MARIA CHAPPELLE-NADAL (D), Missouri State Senator:  It’s absolutely about how this system is structured.

And let me just tell you, Gwen, what we’re dealing with right now is the fact that African-Americans are at the bottom of the economic food chain.  They’re in the mud.  They’re right alongside catfish in the Mississippi.

So we have to do something that’s different.  We have to really look at how our system is structured.  Yes, we have been looking at racial inequity for a very long time, if you look at President Truman’s freedom from fear.  We were looking at racial inequity in 1968, when you had President Johnson looking at inequity in the Kerner Commission.

And 47 years later, we’re still talking about racial inequity, which means we still have environmental inequity, social inequity, economic inequity.  And so because all of these things still are existent and around means that there is something fundamentally wrong and flawed in the structure in which we are operating right now.

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