Ferguson is not America
March 16, 2015
The wounding of two police officers in Ferguson, Missouri, and earlier in New York City the assassination of two police officers are disturbing for all Americans as they represent a hostility that threatens a safe, secure society wherever one lives.
Ferguson, however, is not America if one looks at its population and the incredibly poor governance they have endured.
Ferguson is atypical of the nation. As James Langston notes in his book, “America in Crisis”, in Ferguson “the growth of the black population relative to whites is a recent occurrence. In 1990, blacks comprised 25 percent of the city’s population but that percentage grew to 52 percent in 2000 and 67 percent in 2010.”
“The demographic transition was not followed by a corresponding transition in black access to political positions, the police force, union representation, and the like. The recency of the demographic transition likely has altered the city in ways that do not characterize other contemporary major cities in the United States especially those that are majority black like Detroit or Atlanta.”
As noted in a Department of Justice investigation occasioned by the shooting of Michael Brown by a white police officer, noted a factor in the lives of its black citizens that would invoke protest and resentment in any comparable situation. “Ferguson,” notes Langston, “is unusual in the degree that the city uses the municipal court system and the revenue it generates as a way to raise city funds. This created a financial incentive to issue tickets and then impose excessive fees on people who did not pay.”
“Data bears this out. Ferguson issued more than 1,500 warrants per 1,000 people in 2013 and this rate exceeds all other Missouri cities with a population larger than 10,000 people. Ferguson has a population of just over 21,000 people but issued 24,000 warrants which add up to three warrants per Ferguson household.” Little wonder that hostility to its police force sparked the riots that drew so much attention.
Add to that “the disproportional number of blacks that are killed in police shootings. Blacks comprise 13 percent of the U.S. population, but represent 32 percent of those killed by police between 2003 and 2009.” That’s more than double the number of whites killed. It likely represents the greater number of criminal events that bring together blacks and the police responding to them.
Even so, shooting police officers or gathering in groups to shout “Death to the police” poses a threat to the conduct of a lawful society that no nation can accept.
Being black in America inherently evokes the historical fact that this nation practiced slavery prior to and since its founding in 1788, when our Constitution was ratified in 1788, to Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. It wasn’t until 1964 when the Civil Rights Act was passed, followed by the Voting Rights Act in 1965 that the discrimination affecting the black community was fully addressed.
Two generations of Americans have been born since then and these new generations have no living memory of the Civil Rights movement or the riots that occurred in cities like Los Angeles and Philadelphia. Between 1955 and 1977 there were more than thirty race riots in America. Younger Americans did not experience them. Older Americans recall them and the riot in Ferguson evoked disturbing memories.
As reported in a 2007 study released by the National Urban League “African-American men are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as white males. They are nearly as likely to be incarcerated, with average jail sentences about 10 months longer than those of white men.” Between the ages of 15 and 34, the civil rights group, noted that “black males are nine times more likely to be killed by firearms and nearly eight times as likely to suffer from AIDS.” The unemployment rates are comparable to those today, eight years later.
A 2007 report by the U.S. Bureau of Statistics noted that, while only 13 percent of the U.S. population, blacks “were the victims of 49 percent of all murders and 15 percent of rapes, assaults, and other nonfatal violent crimes nationwide.” Significantly, “Most of the black murder victims—93 percent—were killed by other black people” while 85 percent of white victims were slain by other white people.”
One could conclude that murder is rampant in America, but the reality is that homicides in America are at a 50-year low! The peak homicide rate was in 1980. The rate began to grow in the mid-1960s, but steadily dropped by the 1990s. Today’s murder rate is at the lowest point in the past century.
What we are witnessing, however, is the result of the cultural issues that afflict the black community. Juan Williams, a Fox News analyst, writing in 2007 noted that “One hard, unforgiving fact is that 70 percent of black children are born today to single mothers.” The school dropout rate is “about 50 percent nationwide for black students.”
“Black youth culture is boiling over with nihilism. It embraces failure and frustration, including random crime and jail time,” wrote Williams. Ferguson is just one example of this far larger problem that afflicts the black community.
One might have thought—and many did—that the election of America’s first black President was going to make these problems go away. Many blacks have entered the middle class, but the majority encounter the problems endemic to the black community and until its culture and lifestyle choices change they will be around for a long time to come.
Alan Caruba is an American public relations counselor and freelance writer who is a frequent critic of environmentalism, Islam and research on global warming. In the late 1970s Caruba founded the PR firm The Caruba Organization, and in 1990, the National Anxiety Center, which identifies itself as "a clearinghouse for information about 'scare campaigns' designed to influence public policy and opinion" on such subjects as global warming, ozone depletion and DDT.