Selma Redux

After reviewing the damning conclusions of the Department of Justice’s report on police practices in Ferguson, Missouri, indicating a deeply corrupt system of targeting African-American citizens with excessive or bogus citations in order to generate revenue, Jelani Cobb makes this disturbing observation about the connection between Ferguson and the Selma crisis we commemorated this weekend:

[I]t’s nearly impossible to overlook the fact that the battles in Selma were animated by a local police force empowered to uphold a racially toxic status quo on behalf of a white minority population. Ferguson’s is not a singular situation. It is an object lesson in the national policing practices that have created the largest incarcerated population in the Western world, as well as a veil of permanent racial suspicion—practices that many people believe will deliver safety in exchange for injustice. What happened in Selma is happening in Ferguson, and elsewhere, too. The great danger is not that we will discount the progress that has been made but that we have claimed it prematurely.​

That’s not going to be an easy lesson for people who are “tired of hearing” about racism or deny it could possibly exist (other than against white people). But some of us are old enough and southern enough to remember the loud voices of protests against the protests in Selma. Sometimes the truth just has to break through.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.