Saturday 25 January 2020

How can this be happening under a black US President?

Residents of Ferguson console each other as masked individuals break into a store during the continuing riots. Photo: REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Residents of Ferguson console each other as masked individuals break into a store during the continuing riots. Photo: REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Tim Stanley

Violence continues in Ferguson, Missouri. Peaceful demonstrations turned into looting, the local police went in with rubber bullets and tear gas, all hell broke loose and, eventually, Missouri's governor pulled out the local police and sent in state officers instead.

But the rioting only paused; it didn't cease. And it may continue. That's probably because it's driven by a deep, deep anger that will take a long time to calm.

Observers might ask, "How can this be happening in an America that has elected a black president?"

How can black kids still get killed by white cops and how can towns still burn in race riots? Part of the explanation is that the recession has been especially tough on African-Americans, reinforcing historical disparities of wealth.

Before the credit crunch, the median net worth of a black household was $12,124, compared with $134,992 in white households.

After the crunch, the black net worth fell to just $5,677, compared with $113,149 among whites.

Black home equity fell by an average of 28 per cent and retirement savings by 35 per cent.

In May 2014, the black unemployment rate stood at 11.5 per cent - more than double the white jobless rate of 5.4 per cent.

To make matters worse, blacks face additional challenges at home and in the streets. There is a crisis in black fatherhood: while just 29 per cent of whites are born out of wedlock, the figure is 72 per cent for blacks.

For a sense of how, for many blacks, the police are an agency of state repression, consider this alarming fact: in Ferguson, 67 per cent of residents are black but 94 per cent of the local police are white.

Why has electing a black president not changed all of this?

One answer is that while Obama is a president who is black, he has never sold himself as an expressly black president - that is, he tries to operate outside of the racial narrative rather than play a leadership role within it.

He is evidence to the young black child that, yes, anyone can make it in America.

But what he was never going to be was someone who would confront racism head on or seek a substantial redistribution of power and money of the variety that many civil rights leaders feel is necessary.

President Obama has commented on Ferguson but mostly to appeal for calm and ask for a proper investigation of what happened. Of course, it will be the black community that will lead the fight for change.

Fortunately, there is an expanding black middle class to offer a model of self-improvement and the black church remains a beacon of activism and uplift. Sadly, what they have discovered since the days of the civil rights movement is that government isn't always their best friend and the promises of the Left can be empty.

Change will come from within towns like Ferguson, not from within the White House. (© Daily Telegraph,

Irish Independent

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