Lessons of Ferguson
Vladimir SEDOV | 31.08.2014 | WORLD / Americas

Lessons of Ferguson

US neocons organize color revolution throughout the whole world and make the whole regions plunge into chaos while their own country is nearing social collapse caused by unresolved contradictions like the difference between the rich and the poor, for instance. Somehow the national minorities always prevail filling the ranks of those who are needy. Formally they have rights but the system makes them remain poor and destitute of opportunity to really become full-fledged actors taking part in the country’s social life. 

Having come to Ferguson, (Missouri) General Attorney Eric Holder said the causes behind the crime are typical, the same thing happens all over in other American cities. One of US commentators noted that Ferguson is the place where contradictions got exacerbated to the boiling point as the city dwellers got fed up with racial inequality and routine breaches of law and justice by police. The mistrust is growing between whites and blacks, ethnic minorities and police. The latter is on the way of becoming a militarized force created to quell any discontent with the existing order. 

The city in the heart of Missouri is by and large an American average populated area with the population around 21 thousand. There are many industrial enterprises and less developed agriculture. In comparison with other Missouri cities it is a high-tech and software leader hosting the headquarters of Emerson Electric. Ferguson is neither predominantly blue-collar nor white-collar, instead having a mixed workforce of both blue-collar and white-collar jobs. Overall, it is a city of sales and office workers, service providers and professionals. There are especially a lot of people living in Ferguson who work in office and administrative support (16.78%), sales jobs (10.58%) and teaching (7.35%). Also of interest is that Ferguson has more people living here who work in computers and math than 95% of the places in the US. The income per capita in Ferguson is 8.1% less than the Missouri average and 20.5% less than the national average. The median household income in Ferguson is 16.2% less than the Missouri average and 29% less than the national average. The median household income in Ferguson for owner occupied housing is 60.8% greater than the median household income for renter occupied housing in Ferguson. The poverty level in Ferguson is 13.1% less than the Missouri average and 5.9% less than the national average. The median earnings for males in Ferguson are 46.1% greater than the median earnings for females in Ferguson. (1) The educational level is higher than the average across the United States. 23% of city dwellers have higher education degrees.

All told, the small city is to be a place of social well-being and peace. But he recent happenings made the state call in the National Guard so they it would put down the raging unrest. Was it such an unexpected turn of events? 

US experts believe the rapidly changing racial composition of the population is at the root of the matter.

So what's happening here? The answer, after digging into some census data, seems to be massive demographic change. In 1990, the city of Ferguson had 5,589 black citizens and 16,454 white citizens, making it about three-quarters white. By 2000, blacks were a slim majority of the population. As of 2010, they made up 69 percent of the city, and it seems likely that trajectory has continued over the last four years. That racial makeup is not reflected in the town's institutions and these realities have created a great deal of tension between the police and the black community. And, most importantly, its police force is overwhelmingly white. Out of the 53 commissioned officers in the Ferguson Police Department, only three are black. And the chief of police, Thomas Jackson, is also white. It all raises questions. 

Jeff Smith is an assistant professor of urban policy at the New School and a former Missouri state senator from St. Louis. According to him, the conflicts between black-majority population and the authorities with predominant white representation are spreading around the whole country as African Americans flee from inner city to suburbs where white population had been a majority. African Americans cannot compete with whites at local elections lagging behind in education, well-being and social standing. Municipalities need people with management experience and special skills. African Americans cannot afford a start to begin climbing the stairs of social ladder. 

The chart here makes racial inequality clear. In 2009 the correlation of white and black citizens below poverty level was 1:5 (573 whites, 2570 blacks). There are 6, 5% of poor among white and 20% among black people (the figure is 83% for Indians). 

Here is a vicious circle: lower living standards prevent color minorities from occupying prestigious jobs. As a result, they are underrepresented in city councils and other offices of local power administrative and legislative system. Underrepresentation leads to lack of leverage that could facilitate the progress of African Americans. According to Jeff Smith, poverty and lack of education keep African Americans away from taking part in vote. Low turnout among Blacks complicates the situation. The racial disparity negatively affects crime statistics in comparison with the United States or the State of Missouri with whites accounting for 73% of total population. The chances to become a victim of crime in Ferguson are 1:19 against 1:30 in Missouri. In case of robberies accordingly - 1:79 and 1:13. Lethal crime (for a thousand) Ferguson – 0, 09 against US average – 0, 05 a year. Experts believe the Ferguson police, as the police of other municipalities, use selected approach based on racial grounds as they register the crimes. 

According to a racial profiling report from the Missouri Attorney General’s Office, of the 5,384 total traffic stops the Ferguson police made last year, 4,632 involved black residents. Only 686 involved white residents. That means blacks represent 86% of all traffic stops last year. And despite representing nearly a third of Ferguson’s population, whites only made up 12.7% of the stops performed by Ferguson police. The remaining stops involved people of other races. The report reveals that there were 521 arrests in 2013. Of those, 483, or 92.7%, involved blacks. A mere 6.9% involved whites, according to the report.

Does it mean that blacks are more inclined to violate the law? I doubt it. It’s not that there are many blacks in the post –Soviet space, but the police more often stop the no great shakes cars not shying away from inventing justifications for doing so while the owners of luxury vehicles with special license plate numbers arrogantly breach the rules right under the eyes of policemen without any reaction on their part. The same way as in the Unites States, it’s easy to get behind bars for stealing a couple of one or two hundred dollars here while there is a slim chance you’ll be brought to face justice for stealing a couple of billion. No wonder. The unwritten rules of relationship between people and powers that be are the same in capitalist society. 

It’s good we can see and define our problems. Do those who belong to US elite see the things as they are? Do they see the United States’ strong and weak points? I doubt it. 

Surprisingly the United States government easily spends trillions to overthrow legal governments in other states and the activities of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. At the same time it does not want to allocate funds to solve social and economic problems in its own country. 

According to the results of investigation, a lot of African Americans feel hassled all the time, because there's pressure on the cops to make enough stops to meet budgetary needs, and there's a cross-racial disconnect and misunderstanding between the police and public. The municipality badly needs funds for education, paying wages, so it makes make policemen abuse power to gather more fines on the roads. No doubt it’s easier to rob blacks to avoid going to court or fall out of favor with the people who have pull. 

For the very same reasons American policemen use excessive force detaining blacks. According to Jess Smith, «The shooting of Brown, like so many similar incidents between police and unarmed black men, renewed conversations about racism in the American justice system and, more specifically to Ferguson, deep-rooted racial disparities in local government and law enforcement. To the majority-black community in Ferguson, Brown's death was seen as something that could happen to them or their own sons». Darnell Hunt, an expert on race relations and civil unrest, compared the situation to the shooting of Trayvon Martin in 2012: «Not only was this something that affected people in country, but other people realized that the fate of Trayvon was possibly the fate of their own sons». (9)

In Ferguson they hardly think about the consequences of this policy. This selective approach will sooner or later push African Americans to revolts in protest. In Washington they don’t think about what the implications of this policy. The growing burden of social and economic problems in the debt-ridden country spending trillions on wars and subversive activities abroad will sooner or later make the United States go down to the bottom. It may happen much earlier than the neocons dream of converting the planet into the Great American Empire will become true. 

The time is ripe for Americans to leave other peoples in peace and concentrate on finding solution to domestic problems until it’s too late. 

Tags: US