When cities go bankrupt, it’s Black Communities at risk
As the U.S feels the financial effect from the pandemic shut down, and the war for justice, the fight for Black Lives Matter and black communities will need transformation in police brutality and economics. The economy will effect every U.S citizen. However, the greater effects will be deeply rooted in the Black communities and will last longer as well.
As state revenues decrease so will public education, senior services, transportation, and food assistance. Since cities don’t have the same taxing authority or tax base as states, to make up the budget shortfall municipalities are highly likely to raise fees and fines for routine services such as parking, loitering, and traffic violations.
Sef Hunter, the director of Black-led organizing and power building at Community Change witnessed this first hand. In Ferguson, Mo., in 2014 after a police officer killed Michael Brown. Seth Hunter joined protests calling for justice to stop police brutality and targeting in the Black community to endorse city budgets. As Seth and his colleagues spoke with residents, they found that many were fined for ridiculous purposes. For instance, having a flat tire on a car parked in a private driveway. The county was making 2 million dollars a year primarily from fines paid by a community of 21,000 residents. That comes out to each resident paying 95 dollars a year for unnecessary cause.
An investigation showed that Ferguson budgeted 23% of its revenue from fines and fees in 2015. It also found that from 2012 to 2014, 85% of those stopped, 90% of those who received a citation, and 93% of those arrested were Black, even though Black people make up 67% of Ferguson’s population. A town adjacent to Ferguson with a lower Black population was paying 5 dollar fines compared to 17 dollar petty fines charged by Ferguson county.
On a U.S scale, A 2017 study of 9,000 cities in the U.S. found that even after controlling for differences in income, education, and crime levels, cities with larger African-American populations collected an average of $12 to $19 more per person per year than those with the smallest number of Black residents.
If justice is to be served for the Black Lives Matter movement it can not stop a just policing, there needs to be financial reform as well. Although, the HERos Act for second stimulus has been passed, this will not be enough. If state budgets continue to plummet and cities go bankrupt, the impact on Black communities will be immediate and long-lasting. If Congress wants to show that they truly care for Black lives, they must pass this relief package before it is too late.