Thursday, November 27, 2014

Ferguson and beyond

The promise of Civil Rights deferred

Ferguson 2014
With riots spreading throughout the country, the story in Ferguson has resonated in the international media.  The lack of an indictment has been widely disparaged.  Ever since the incident was first reported in August, journalists from around the world have used the shooting to illustrate that the United States has yet to overcome its racial differences.  A Russian newspaper even dubbed the situation in Ferguson "Afromaidan," an all too obvious response to the way the US media has portrayed the events in the Ukraine, as protests have been ongoing in Ferguson since the incident first took place three months ago.

Yet, a large segment of American society seems inured to the events.  Robert P. Jones opins that this is in large part due to the self-segregated communities we live in, unable to appreciate, let alone understand, what it is like to live in black communities like Ferguson.  Decades of desegregation attempts have failed to achieve the desired result.  We still live in a largely segregated society, mostly of our own choosing, and to a large degree shut everything out that doesn't directly concern us.

Many Americans conveniently accept the stereotypes of each other.  Some even take pride in their own stereotypes, especially when portrayed in the ubiquitous reality shows.  Politicians take advantage of the racial divides in their voting districts, especially in the way these districts have been gerrymandered to favor one political party or another, all too often along racial lines.

St. Louis County is little different than any other metropolitan area in the country in the way it is split demographically, with these racially divided communities having little contact with each other at a social level.  Like many Midwest cities, St. Louis attracted Blacks seeking better opportunities in the wake of Jim Crow laws in the South, only to find themselves segregated from the mainstream of society in much the same way.  They settled into racially-defined communities with little representation in local government.

Over the years, the percentage of Blacks living in St. Louis County has increased to nearly 25 per cent, but they still find themselves largely marginalized in local politics.  Even the Ferguson police force, overseen by the county, is mostly White in a community that is predominantly Black, which sadly echoes the plantation system.  Protest becomes the only form of political recourse, evoking the Civil Rights movement.

Birmingham 1963
This is what has captured the attention of the nation and the world.  Ferguson has become a symbol for what is largely seen as a failed promise of civil rights in this country, despite a Black president.  Many see Michael Brown as a martyr.  Conversely, the Ferguson Police Department is seen as the Birmingham police, ca. 1963, led by Bull Connor, who would use any means necessary to quell the protests.  Jay Nixon, governor of Missouri, finds himself in the role of George Wallace sending in National Guard and state police reinforcements.  Like it or not, the stereotypes persist, largely due to the insular worlds we live in.


  1. The events in Ferguson are proof that the USA has no business involving itself in foreign affairs. Here is Washington DC pretending to be the moral guarantor of the world and yet it cannot solve its own domestic problems. For anyone to say that we need to involve ourselves in Israel, the Middle East, or in North Korea is the high point of stupidity.



    For those who still insist that the USA must remain the moral guarantor of the world, this proves that the USA is in no position to take on such responsibilities.

  3. It's hubris for the United States to regard itself as moral guarantor. But as the nation that wields the power and influence in the world that it does, the US has a role to play in world affairs as well as having an obligation to its citizens to put its own house in order.