Here And Now: Why Events in Ferguson Have Been a Long Time in the Making



Remember when the Supreme Court declared racism to be over?

Yeah, about that.

As protests continue to last into the second week and the Ferguson Police Department making the guys from Police Academy look like Seal Team Six, we seem to be heading for a prolonged struggle. The news media love drama so they will hunker down and set up shop in the streets. Supporters will flock to Darren Wilson and conservatives will blast Jay Nixon/President Obama/Hillary Clinton for not solving the nonexistent problem of racism in this country.

And yet, all of them are missing the bigger picture.

Ferguson is not as isolated incident. It never was. What Ferguson is and will continue to be is a microcosm of the relationship between large segments of the population and their views of local law enforcement. It is an issue that has been deeply rooted into our history and is one that has now manifested itself in a way that we can no longer ignore the issue because it has hit us head on.

The time and place that Ferguson represents is one that is nearly seventy years in the making. It goes back to the post World War II years where the country was still very much segregated in where we lived, where we went to school, and where we attended our place of worship. This was the time of Levittown, the hometown of White privilege denier Bill O’Reilly, where non-Christian and minority families were legally allowed to be denied new, affordable housing. Being unable to join the suburbs, many minority families were forced to live in the city as it was the only place they could afford housing.

In many instances, this housing was only supposed to be temporary. However, there remains countless examples of these housing units built in the 1950s that are still occupied today. Since these units were not expensive and were not occupied by wealthy, influential tenants, property managers let the buildings get run down because they knew their tenets had nowhere else to go. They were stuck and the property managers knew this and took full advantage of it.

So what we had were large minority populations living in close proximity to each other in very uncouth buildings. So, naturally these areas garnered a certain kind of reputation. And so the people in these areas became accustomed to seeing local law enforcement patrol their areas far more often than those people living in the affluent suburbs.

So now not only are these communities rundown, but they’re essentially being policed 24/7. For teenagers growing up in these areas, it now becomes common to being stopped on the street by a police officer. Their interactions with the local police leave a strong distrust of them and the services they provide. As their affluent counterparts hardly ever see the police unless something goes awry, these teenagers see the police on a consistent basis. With every addition stop, these teenagers become more and more resentful.

And then something happens.

Someone close to them is killed and there is a delayed police response. Their friend is stopped and arrested on the street without reasonable cause. Or, their unarmed son is shot and killed by a police officer and is left to die on the street for the entire community to see.

What happened in Ferguson was a long time in the making. When you have three black police officers in a town that is 2/3 black then something isn’t right. The fact that additional policemen have been disciplined for racist comments should tell us all that this was in no way an isolated incident. The people of Ferguson are demanding justice not only for Michael Brown but themselves as well.

And for the first time, people are listening to them and hearing their story.

11 Replies to “Here And Now: Why Events in Ferguson Have Been a Long Time in the Making”

  1. About 25 years or so a go I was riding on the redline in Chicago going downtown. As I was riding a young brother was sitting next to me and we started talking.

    As we passed the Robert Taylor homes, the projects that Good Times was set in for those who don’t know, I said look at that. When they were first built it was for middle class families for a stepping stone till you own your own bungalow now look at it.

    It was a conscious effort back when they were building the Dan Ryan expressway to segregate blacks in one spot. A high rise ghetto. Cut them off from the rest of the city and opportunity.

    As we talk further I said something I kind of regret but I thought was true.

    You treat people like rats, pile them on top of each other with limited resources and what you have is chaos and a never ending cycle of oppression.

    It never ends

  2. I thought America had progressed and was learning to look at people for who they are instead of the color of their skin. After all, skin color is a pigmentation that has nothing to do with our personhoods.

    I am still shocked at the abuse our president endures at the hands of idiots who will never stop. I am sorry that we as a people, have not grown past our petty hate.

  3. I think and since I have been on here that the majority of America has progressed. The problem is too many of us black white brown and all people of all different religions races and ethnic groups have been silent. We have been silent with our voices and our votes. We let the ALEC’s divide us on petty shit while they laugh their asses off to the bank.

    Sometimes I may be crude and whatever people may call me but I don’t care. Its got to get better only if we fight for it
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  4. Oh please. Maybe that’s the story where you live. Events, past and current, in Ferguson are far more complex than some fantasy temporary post-war housing built for black people. Black people in St. Louis were squeezed in place because of a banking practice called red-lining. Among other things, including restrictive covenants. And so on.

  5. True! Recently Wells Fargo Banks were charging Blacks higher home loan rates here in CA!
    They aim to crumble us all from the bottom up.

  6. Ferguson is just one example in the never ending unfairness in racial disparity in America. I know that as a white woman I have a privilege that includes many things, including my encounters with cops, that minorities do not have. I do believe that America made strides during desegregation and Lyndon Johnson’s administration with the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, but subsequent years have seen a discouraging rise of conservative Supreme Court rulings that have lessened, if not removed, those protections. We may be back in the ’60s again with these battles to be fought once again. Presidential elections are important because their court appointments live on for decades, influencing daily life in America.

  7. 41 shots, Lena gets her son ready for school

    She says, “On these streets, Charles

    You’ve got to understand the rules

    If an officer stops you, promise me you’ll always be polite

    And that you’ll never ever run away

    Promise Mama you’ll keep your hands in sight”

    Is it a gun , is it a knife

    Is it a wallet, this is your life

    It ain’t no secret

    No secret my friend

    You get killed just for living in

    Your American skin

    Bruce Springsteen
    American Skin (41 Shots)

  8. It is heartbreaking. When the President was elected, I was so proud of the country finally moving ahead on racial problems (I foolishly thought). I actually cried. The way he is treated is embarrassing. I don’t know if the Tbaggers have looked at the world and realized that there are an awful lot of people of color out there.

  9. Ferguson is not a housing project. It is not the inner city. It is a suburb. Yes, the apartment complex where Michael Brown was shot is low income housing but it wasn’t built in the 50’s. Ferguson is a product of “white flight”. As black populations moved from the inner city and away from places such as Pruitt- Igo (housing like you described),the white population moved out further.Upward mobility for the black populace, racism for the white.

  10. St. Louis County, Ferguson, and “Slavery by another name”
    In 1873, “Reconstruction” ended with the withdrawal of federal troops and federal oversight from the states of the Confederacy. Whites in these states responded over the following years by establishing the “Black Codes” and a system of debt peonage and servitude that established an evil system of black servitude that was worse than slavery and that lasted until well after World War II.

    Click on the link to watch the PBS Documentary

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