For Quartz, I wrote about how Americans who kill young black men not only often go unpunished — their murder is financially rewarded:
“The Ferguson Effect” is a term used by some politicians and pundits to describe a link between a rise in protests against police brutality and an increase in crime since the 2014 killing of Brown. The theory has been debunked: officials from New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton to Attorney General Loretta Lynch to US president Barack Obama have all denied that there is any evidence to support it. And St. Louis’s crime rate began to rise in April 2014, months before Wilson killed Brown
The real Ferguson effect is the way Americans have learned that they can kill young unarmed black men and face no legal repercussions–and may even receive a financial reward. In a country built on slave labor, where lynching was viewed as entertainment, unpunished killings of black men are hardly new. But digital media has allowed anti-black brutality to be commodified in new ways.
Since 2008, America has been devastated by the aftermath of the financial recession, with cities struggling to provide basic services and families struggling to get by. Yet when it comes to the killing of young black men, we find two related phenomena: donations given by citizens to the officers allegedly at fault and an enormous government payout in lieu of any serious attempts at police reform or, in some cases, even an admission of wrongdoing.
That cities are willing to give away millions of dollars to the victims’ families rather than admit culpability in the slaying of black men shows how resistant police departments are to confronting racism and brutality within their own ranks. More disturbing, however, are the Americans who eagerly donate to the killers of black boys and men. There are thousands of online fundraisers for families struggling to pay health care or funeral costs that cannot meet their modest goals. But kill a young black man, and the money comes rolling in.