The Department of Social Justice

Ryan Lovelace, National Review, December 8, 2014

When Department of Justice officials arrived in Ferguson, Mo., one day after the death of Michael Brown, it wasn’t just to conduct an investigation on potential civil-rights violations. In fact, officials from one Justice Department office were conducting meetings with Ferguson residents to educate them on subjects such as “white privilege.”

The DOJ’s Community Relations Service arrived in Ferguson purportedly to lessen the tension between protesters and city officials. But sources who attended the DOJ’s private gatherings with Ferguson residents tell NRO that the Justice Department also sought to educate and question the community about the issues of white privilege and racism. The political nature of the Justice Department’s intervention in Ferguson may not be exclusive to its interactions with residents; it also might have affected its ongoing investigations into the Ferguson Police Department and officer Darren Wilson.

As investigators combed through Ferguson, DOJ’s Community Relations Service began holding the town-hall meetings, which excluded press and everyone from out of town. Ferguson resident Audrey Watson, 47, attended one of the meetings. She says federal officials organized the attendees into small groups and asked questions such as “What stereotypes exist in our community?” “How does white privilege impact race relations in our community?” and “Is there a need for personal commitment to race relations?”

Hundreds of people attended the fall meetings, including Ferguson mayor James Knowles III, who says many people at the initial meetings were angry and screaming. Knowles says the Community Relations Service officials told him they had previously responded to Trayvon Martin’s death in Sanford, Fla., and that they were there to help. During the meetings, he says, the DOJ officials talked about underlying racism that people may not perceive, and the issue of white privilege.

“I mean, I think it was really just trying to get people to understand what that [white privilege] means, because the average white person wakes up and says, if you’re just a middle-class white person, you say, ‘What privilege do I have?’ ” Knowles says. “But until you really understand the systemic issues and maybe some of those not-visible things that exist in society, which affect African Americans or other persons of color, you may not really understand what that is.”

In an e-mail to NRO, a Justice Department spokeswoman said the meetings were designed to ease tension. The spokeswoman requested that NRO not quote her e-mails and added that it’s not the role of Community Relations Service officials to take a position on issues of race. {snip}

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While the Community Relations Service town-hall meetings with Ferguson residents have concluded, DOJ officials remain in the city. Before, during, and after a grand jury decided not to indict Wilson, the officials met with protesters and other key stakeholders such as Mayor Knowles about how to keep the peace.

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