The struggle for black dignity continues

(CNN)The Department of Justice’s explosive report on institutional racism in the Baltimore Police Department represents a devastating indictment of the criminal justice system. Over half a century after the modern civil rights movement, this system continues to denigrate black lives and deny African-American citizenship.

It further proves, through documentary evidence, what Charm City’s black residents have always known: that the police department serves as more of an occupying army designed to arbitrarily punish, humiliate and even kill than as a protective forced designed to defend and honor.



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    Recommendations of better police training, while laudable, merely scratch the surface of our national criminal justice nightmare. The issues plaguing the justice system are rooted in larger social problems around poverty, segregation, mental health, public schools, unemployment, broken infrastructure and community decay. This decay is borne not just from a loss of hope but racist public policy that denies opportunity to generations of African-Americans. Indeed, the fact that 44% of cops in Baltimore are black exemplifies the fact that merely diversifying police departments has not eliminated institutional racism and biases related to law enforcement’s treatment of African American communities.
    Anti-black racism and its evolution remain central to understanding not only this specific report, but the systemic patterns of unequal justice plaguing the entire nation. Baltimore is just the tip of the iceberg. The DOJ is conducting investigations into dozens of cities — including Ferguson, Missourie, and Cleveland — triggered in part by spectacular acts of police violence against black people, including juveniles in the case of Cleveland’s Tamir Rice.
    The criminal justice system’s denigration and dehumanization of black life represents the great moral crisis of our times. The report’s unspoken context is the nation’s painful history of slavery, Jim Crow and racial violence that contours contemporary American social, political and civic life. Black life in America continues to be subject to racist, institutional forces that deny access to citizenship and the rule of law and then, in an outrageous rhetorical sleight of hand, criminalize African-Americans as being undeserving of citizenship or legal protection.
    The report’s larger implications represent a sobering new reality for all Americans. Structural racism still serves as the central spoke in the wheel of injustice that systematically marginalizes and devalues the hopes, dreams, freedoms, constitutional protections and yes, the very lives of black people in America. Decades after the civil rights movement’s heroic period, the struggle for black dignity and citizenship continues.

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