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Ferguson, Missouri and Race

I have been loathe to comment on the recent racial disturbances in Ferguson, Missouri prompted by the death of Michael Brown.  The reasons are simple: we have witnessed this scene before and we are likely to witness it again.  The thing that most aggravates me is the rush to judgment on both sides.  The African-American community views this differently than some in the white community.  The bottom line is that blacks see this as an unprovoked killing of a black man while many of us on the Right are equally rushing to judgment and jumping on every unsubstantiated leaking of investigation results.

That is to be expected in today’s 24/7 news cycle.  Each side latches onto whatever they could get their hands on and runs with it before any investigation is even half finished.  I personally dislike the knee-jerk reactions of the Left and the Right equally.  And in today’s polarized political environment, there are fewer and fewer people in the middle.

As I see it, the primary problem in Ferguson is not the ethnic breakdown of the police department.  The problem is that precious few (if any) Ferguson police officers actually live in Ferguson.  To them, Ferguson is a just a job.  There is no connection to the community they are sworn to serve and protect.  I take the police chief’s word for it that he has tried to recruit and retain qualified African-Americans from within and outside Ferguson.  Other mayors and police chiefs in towns much larger than Ferguson with high minority populations have also mentioned these difficulties.

But that does not mean that one throws their hands in the air.  As I view “affirmative action,” it is the good faith effort to recruit qualified minority applicants for jobs.  It is not to coddle them or give them special treatment or lower the standards for the job so that they may get a leg up on other applicants.  And by the same token, blacks should not expect special treatment by virtue of their skin color as the race hustlers suggest.  But whether it is Ferguson, Missouri or Baltimore, Maryland, there should be that concerted effort to at least recruit police officers from the actual community they will be charged to police.  It is just commonsense.

Conversely, the African-American community in Ferguson (and elsewhere) have to shoulder some blame in two areas.  When there is an example of a heinous black-on-white crime (and it happens every day), there is no rioting or looting, no marching in the streets and no demands for justice.  Some blacks will say that this is the only way attention can be drawn to their plight.  I say, “bulls#!@!”  Many generations of African-Americans have marched, been killed, and been beaten up to further the political rights of fellow African-Americans.  The rioting and looting only furthers belief in the minds of many.

Secondly, in a town that is 70% black, it behooves this writer to understand why the entire city council and the mayor are white.  Does the African-American community in Ferguson stay home on Election Day?  That is one consideration.  The other two are that there is some institutional barrier like zoning laws or the drawing of precincts that dilutes the black vote, or there are simply no blacks willing to step forward and run for political office.  If it is the former, we may have a problem.  If it is the latter, the African-American community in Ferguson needs to do some soul searching.  The nearest “larger city” to me is 38% African-American.  Their city council of nine members has 5 blacks, 2 Hispanics and two whites with a white mayor (the first after a succession of three black mayors).  In a town that is 38% black, 56% of the city council is black.  Compare that to Ferguson: 70% black with a city council with 0% blacks.  Something is wrong there.

The bottom line is that the recent unrest is not about poverty, unemployment, unwed mothers, high teenage pregnancy rates, drug use and crime, etc. and the plethora of problems that plague the African-American community.  This is in response to the death of a black man at the hands of a white police officer.  Whether it is a problem that has been festering for some time between the police and the community is a whole other question.  Those answers will come later.

Until later arrives, it would do everyone on both sides well to wait for the investigation process to be completed.  It may just be that Officer Wilson will be indicted and tried, or it may just be that he won’t.  Either way, it serves no one to taunt the other side with “I told you so!” statements when later finally arrives.

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