FERGUSON, Mo. - The concept of "driving while black" has been part of the public consciousness for years, but for those who have never experienced this injustice, it's hard to understand how much it can permeate the lives of those caught up in it.
The Huffington Post visited four separate St. Louis-area municipal courts in a span of four nights last week: Pasadena Hills, Jennings, Country Club Hills and St. Ann. Two court sessions took place in municipal buildings, and two took place in residential homes that serve as courtrooms and city hall. In every single court session, the court officials, police officers and lawyers were overwhelmingly white, while the defendants were overwhelmingly black.
Part of the nickel and diming of America's working class, with a particular focus on African Americans, the unrelenting harassment of people leads to lost hours at work, if not lost jobs, and transfers millions of dollars from those who can afford it least to a government that then uses it to disproportionately imprison members of its community.
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Conversations with black residents in this area revealed that many of them have been taken advantage of for years through a series of aggressive ticketing and harsh penalties for unpaid fines.
In one district with a population of 1,831 people, approximately 33,000 warrants are currently issued. Similar distributions like this are common across the board.
Many of the small municipalities have their own police forces, which are often not demographically representative of the community they are meant to protect. Many residents of the area believe police officers view them as a source of revenue, rather than the people they are supposed to serve.
As Delwood resident Brian Young told HuffPost, “They literally sit on the street and wait till they find something to pull you over for. They’re definitely targeting people.”
Video produced by Emily Kassie.
Amber Ferguson and Mariah Stewart contributed to this story.