Amid violent clashes between Ferguson, Missouri police and protesters angry over the shooting of a young unarmed black man Saturday, attention has focused on the glaring lack of diversity in the city’s police force.
But that problem is only a symptom of a larger one: Though two in three Ferguson residents are black, the city government is almost entirely white.
Local African-American leaders say that’s because, for a variety of reasons, blacks across the region simply haven’t participated in city elections. Until that changes, they add, Ferguson’s racial tensions aren’t likely to get better.
“We warned people about these kinds of things,” said John Gaskin of the Missouri NAACP. “Who hires the police officers? The police chief. Who hires the police chief? The mayor. Who hires the mayor? Who elects the council folks?”
Though whites make up just 29% of the city’s residents, five of Ferguson’s six city council members are white, as is Mayor James Knowles. And six of the local school board’s seven members are white.
So the city government is virtually all white, but 2/3 of the population is black. But the really interesting part is the answer to the question, “why?”
From above: blacks across the region simply haven’t participated in city elections.
When I grew up, the saying was, “if you don’t vote, don’t complain.”
Maybe rather than stirring up talk about how unrepresentative the government is, they could start talking about how to increase interest in local elections.