Robert McCulloch, the prosecuting attorney in St. Louis County, was first elected to the post in 1991, and has held the post ever since. He often runs unopposed. He’s been re-elected six times.
One of those times came after a 2001 grand jury where he allowed four officers to go free after shooting two unarmed Black men in a Jack In the Box parking lot during a suspected drug deal.
The officers said the suspects drove toward them and they feared for their lives. McCulloch told the public that every witness testified that the suspects’ car was moving forward. However, when a St. Louis journalist reviewed the secret grand jury tapes, he found that only three of the 13 officers on the scene testified that the car was moving forward.
What just happened in Ferguson has been done before. When someone shows you who they are, you believe them. You don’t allow them to run unopposed. You don’t re-elect them.
But what do you do if you don’t have any money?
It takes money to become a lawyer. Poor people often don't have the resources necessary to apply to and succeed in law school.
It takes money to run for office. Poor people don’t win elections.
People with money go to the polls more often. Poor people vote at much lower rates than those with high incomes.
The people of St. Louis County have had a full 23 years and six elections to elect another Prosecuting Attorney if they wanted to. Apparently, the people with the money, power and influence were just fine with Mr. McCulloch.
Perhaps you’re also angry at the state of the Ferguson police force, including the fact that despite the city being 67% African American, its police force is 94% White.
Well, officers are recruited and hired by the Chief of Police. The Chief of Police is hired by the Mayor. The Mayor is elected by you.
James Knowles, the current Mayor of Ferguson, was elected in 2011. He won 49% of the vote. That sounds impressive until you realize that in a town of 21,000, only 2,200 people showed up to the polls on election day.
There are 14,000 African Americans who reside in Ferguson. What was the whopping vote total that allowed Mr. Knowles to become mayor? 1,111.
What if everyone who showed up to protest showed up to vote?
In Ferguson, 25% percent of the population falls below the poverty line, a full 10 percentage points higher than the country at large.
These facts make it clear to me that what’s happening in Ferguson, and indeed across the country, is not as much about Black and White as it’s about green.
Right now, we're bringing knives to gunfights, trying to win 2014 battles with 1963 tools.
The fight you want to engage in is not about protesting, it’s about politics.
It’s not about the police, it’s about power.
It’s not about race, it’s about resources.
Granted, all of these things are connected. There's a historical racial context for why so many of our communities are lacking the type of financial weight that allows you to win elections, council seats, and other types of political appointments. I'm just stating that without those things, there will continue to be more Fergusons. Nothing will change.
Now, how do we begin to get those resources, that status, and that power? That's another conversation. But until we make the pursue and procurement of it a priority, we're going to keep having the same conversations we've been having all week.
Rob Wilson has been featured on CNN, CBS, NBC, FoxBusiness.com, Black Enterprise and many other outlets. Someone on your fantasy football team or on your iTunes playlist has probably been one of his clients.