As violence and racism continue to plague impoverished neighbourhoods of American society, a new report makes that first crucial step towards change

The Ferguson Commission released their report on the events in Ferguson that have continued to unravel since the 9th of August, 2014 with the shooting of Michael Brown Jr. by Officer Darren Wilson.

The commission, which comprises 16 volunteers and hundreds of civilian volunteers, released the 198 page report on Monday, and in it they have charged themselves with engaging an entire community to join together and work towards widespread change.

They call the report a ‘people’s report’, in that it was written for those directly affected by the issues it entails. It’s written for the communities in and around St. Louis, but also for those affected by this kind of systematic prejudice throughout the country. And while it was the shooting of Michael Brown Jr. that rallied the people of Ferguson to take a stand, this report does not touch upon that incident alone.

The commission wrote this report in order to shed light and increase awareness on the systematic behaviour that stems from the underlying issues of racism and prejudice that are so frequently swept under the rug.

The report brings to the forefront of our minds the sociopolitical climates that have allowed for so many incidents – like the shooting of Michael Brown Jr.– to happen in the first place.

The report aims not only to bring about action, but to inform, as it acknowledges that not everyone can truly understand the kind of lives African-Americans in these areas live.

‘Ultimately, we want you to understand not only what is recommended, but also why it matters and what it means for you’, the report reads.

It’s also important to note that this report is not a plan, but a ‘path’. The changes outlined within the 198 pages are steps that should be taken not only by policy makers and legislators, but by each individual that hopes to make these changes a reality.

The commission does not want this report to be the end. In fact, they hope that the report becomes a springboard for increased conversation on the topics of race and poverty throughout not only the city of St. Louis but the nation as a whole. The report brings to our attention past riot commissions, condemning them for placating the public and masking the severity of the underlying issues of race relations. Therefore, this report aims to keep the conversation in the public eye so that it is not so easily forgotten.

It’s a report full of hard truths, of data that is uncomfortable, and of personal accounts of racism and systematic abuse that are hard to come to terms with. But that’s the point. The commission embraced this kind of ‘unflinching’ material – the raw truthfulness necessary to accept – in order to enact change.

‘Change requires admitting that what we’ve been doing up to this point isn’t working and that its time to try something else’, the report says.

And while the report outlines a series of steps and procedures necessary to bring about this change, it acknowledges that it doesn’t contain all of the answers. But it also goes on to say that, in reality, no report ever could. Instead of deeming itself the solution, this report has charged itself with rallying the community to join forces and work together to come up with an adequate resolution.

The community can’t stick with the status quo, and in order to move forward there needs to be a climate of engagement – everyone has to work together for a change to occur. As the report details below, just because one might not be directly affected by the issues raised in Ferguson, doesn’t mean it’s OK to sit idly by and allow them to continue.

‘If you live in a safe suburb, and you’ve got a good job, and you’ve got health insurance, and you never worry about your kids’ schools, and you don’t wonder if you might get pulled over because of the colour of your skin, then maybe the status quo is working just fine for you. But for thousands of St. Louisans, the status quo is killing them’, the report bluntly states.

With all of these things in mind, the report outlines a series of reforms and actions they’d like to see take place in and around Ferguson to ensure that the unrest that has permeated the area for over a year can finally have some sort of resolution.

This report calls for actions that include:

  • Widespread police reform in terms of use of force and police training
  • The establishment of the use of force databases and an update on the use of force statutes
  • The creation of civilian review boards to quell distrust between law enforcement and the community
  • The establishment of a more comprehensive response plan to organized protests and demonstrations
  • A reformation of the court system, including ending the disproportionate punishments for crimes, limiting warrants for nonviolent offenses, and creating alternative sentencing options
  • The prevention of conflicts of interests among judges, prosecutors, and other officials
  • Informing the public more effectively on their constitutional rights, making them more accessible and communicating them at every stage of judicial proceeding
  • The consolidation of law enforcement agencies
  • A comprehensive awareness paid to the youths of the area, addressing issues of hunger, healthcare, and early childhood education
  • An expansion on financial aid programs to give more students the opportunity of continuing their education
  • The building of affordable housing
  • The development of a more expansive and inclusive public transportation system
  • The application of a widespread Racial Equity Framework to existing policies and programs

To achieve these ends, the commission knows it needs the support of the community. It needs a populace that will work together in the name of change, in the name of equality, and in the name of human rights. It urges everyone to join in this fight, because if we don’t, we’re doomed to see it happen again and again.