Ferguson Missouri has been in the spotlight since August 9th, when African American teenager Michael Brown was shot and killed. There has been anger and tension in the community the past few days as we await the grand jury decision.
1. Race relations in St.Louis have been bad for a long time. Race relations in St. Louis were more complex than many other places because the city was located in a border state that permitted slavery. Slavery existed and flourished alongside free blacks. African-Americans in the St. Louis of the 1850’s needed licenses to live in the city, and were banned from voting or testifying against whites in court. The “free” blacks had lives that were far more restrictive than those of their white counterparts. These “free” Blacks were subject to housing restrictions, curfews, bans on education, and prohibition from testifying in court against whites. Much of the segregated housing and education persists today and continues to fuel the feelings of disenfranchisement of African American residents today.
2. Rioting is not unique to Ferguson. We simply need to look at how sports fans react to wins or losses. For example, when UConn made it to the final four in early 2014, the caused an extreme amount of damage. When Penn State fired Joe Paterno, students took the streets and overturned vehicles.
3. Anger is normal reaction to injustice. Think about a child or teenager that is sent to their rooms and told to stay there. They might throw toys and break things as a way to express the anger. While it’s not appropriate, it happens. In this instance the child or teenager would destroy his own belonging simply because he cannot immediately obtain the belongings of the parents or the siblings.
It does little to help the cause when we attempt to pathologize African Americans in Ferguson, simply because they are angry or because they riot or because they have the audacity to blast the very segregated systems that oppress them each day.