One day after the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, officials from the Justice Department's Community Relations Service arrived in Ferguson. They were there to investigate potential civil rights violations, but the National Review reports that they also used this time to hold townhall-style meetings with residents and to question and educate them on subjects like white privilege and racism.
Audrey Watson, a community resident, said federal officials organized 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?"
According to the National Review, Ferguson's mayor James Knowles III also attested that DOJ officials talked about "underlying racism that people may not perceive" and the issue of white privilege.
The meetings were designed to ease tension, a Justice Department spokeswoman told the National Review in an email, though she added that it's not the role of Community Relations Service officials to take a position on issues of race. However, Robert Driscoll, the DOJ Civil Rights Division's former chief of staff, said that what the DOJ did in Ferguson is not standard, and called the officials' conduct unfortunate. "Their function is supposed to be on the ground... and to talk to people and let them know what the processes are at the Department of Justice," he said.