Ferguson’s lack of diversity goes way beyond its cops



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.


Not only does it imply a lack of participation in the local elections, it implies a lack of candidates from the African American population. (In my state both Somali and Hmong candidates are being elected to local governments in places where there is a majority of those populations).

As for the police force, there has to be interest in joining. If the majority of the population is anti-police, that is going to inhibit recruiting. Also one has to have a pretty clean record to join a police force (especially with budget cuts, lay offs and people retiring later). In a city I used to live in, they had billboards up and tv commercials looking for new officers. (It was a very economically depressed area with a shrinking population, it was hard to find people interested enough to join and had a clean enough record to join).


I suspect the problem in Ferguson (and probably America as a whole) really isn’t racism anymore. The problem is cultural clash and the contempt two different subcultures have for one another.

I suspect I have a bias that is predictable for a suburban white guy. I suspect that black Ferguson residents also have a bias in regards to who is to blame in a fatal confrontation between a white cop and a black man (with or without a weapon).

But everybody seems unaware of their biases and is ready to jump to conclusions before the facts are all in. Why? The testimony of the guy with the deceased man is already discredited in that he claimed the cop shot him in the back and the autopsy flatly disproves that. Why is anything else he says credible? Why riot in the streets before the investigation is even completed and the facts available for review?

I don’t know nearly enough about the case to say who’s to blame, but we clearly have a problem. And that problem seems to me to be that few care to find the facts out. Both sides seem to want to simply indulge their biases without regard for the truth. And that’s sad.


I would dissent a bit from some aspects of the above analyses, and further suggest that in some respects they reflect poorly and probably not correctly on the black residents of Ferguson.

First, it’s possible that black voter apathy has resulted in an overwhelmingly white council. But it’s also possible the black residents do vote and simply thought those the best candidates. Presumably their records and those of their political opponents are known. If the latter is the case, it reflects well on the black citizens of Ferguson who, one could conclude, vote for who they consider the best qualified regardless of race. I realize it is now accepted as virtual “holy writ” that people other than whites should vote along racial lines, but is that really the kind of society we should want?

As to the rioters, we know for sure that some number of them are not from Ferguson. So, what is the real reaction of the residents of Ferguson? I don’t think we know. They might be considerably more pacific than they’re given credit for being, perhaps a few seasoned thugs notwithstanding.

And there are at least said to be a number of witnesses who verify the officer’s story. Are they white? Are they black? Now, if even a substantial number of them are black, and even if they didn’t see things correctly, it tells us a number of black residents of Ferguson are not so “anti-cop” that they would lie about a thing like this based on grievance. If so, this again speaks well for the black residents of Ferguson and makes the “racially divided city explodes” story line just one more manipulation by those who like seeing racial antipathies.

It seems possible to me that the disturbances might just be due to the influence of the same kinds of race-baiters that profit from them, in terms of matieral goods or political influence.


I might mention that, notwithstanding the City of St. Louis itself is majority black, the mayor is of Lebanese and Polish extraction. Not all voting is racially motivated.


Amid violent clashes between Ferguson, Missouri police and protesters angry over the shooting of a young unarmed black man Saturday

Huh? I was under the impression he was within striking distance with a knife. Is that not the case?


The first paragraph reminds me a bit of what Kareem Abdul Jabbar wrote in his recent Time magazine essay, that for a lot of people, the perceived disparity is largely economic, class and not so much about skin-color. Something to study.


I see one major problem in Ferguson at the moment, and it’s the same problem I see in places like Doraville Georgia, Keene New Hampshire, Saginaw Michigan, Minneapolis Minnesota, etc, and that’s the militarization of the police and the accompanying infringements upon civil liberties. When the local police go on duty looking like they’re ready to fight the Taliban, it isn’t long before all that leads to some scary aggressive behaviour on the part of those who are sworn to uphold the law.


Michael Brown, killed 2 Saturdays ago did not have a knife.

A man in St. Louis was killed about Tuesday did have a knife.


I’m hearing about the police killing a man in Salt Lake City in the last 2 weeks.

The man killed was white, the police who shot him was NOT white from what I understand. Not sure what this all signifies as facts are not always easy to get to.


So if the Pentagon gave the police these weapons as to not be wasteful, are we asserting that the surplus should have been destroyed? Let’s look at this way too, despite the heavy handed presence of Law Enforcement, no one has been injured seriously in the Ferguson demonstrations.


To clarify, nobody has been seriously injured by the police in those demonstrations. Several people have been shot - resulting in at least one death - by agitators and those bent on violence.


Agreed. Mark Steyn wrote an excellent article on this topic. Police are NOT military, and shouldn’t act like military.


So, when the police are dressed like combat troops, it’s not a fashion faux pas, it’s a fundamental misunderstanding of who they are. Forget the armored vehicles with the gun turrets, forget the faceless, helmeted, anonymous Robocops, and just listen to how these “policemen” talk. Look at the video as they’re arresting the New York Times and Huffington Post reporters. Watch the St Louis County deputy ordering everyone to leave, and then adding: “This is not up for discussion.”


The police force does not need military weapons and vehicles. It is very dangerous to militarize the police.


Or another way of looking at it, the black residents of the town voted for diversity in their leadership by electing white politicians. :wink:


Is that what happened in this case?


It certainly helped to exacerbate tensions, along with the tear gassing of non violent protesters who refused to leave the site of there vigil.


I am curious to your source that tear gas was used for non violent protesters?


Well, the answer to this issue is for more black people to get out and vote when election time comes around. Maybe this tragedy will cause more of them to come out and vote in the upcoming elections.


I’ve been hearing this criticism, but I think it’s fairly naïve. If we insist on sending cops out on patrol in a world where drug dealers and gangs protect their turf with (already illegal) automatic weapons, but the cops may only carry billy clubs and .38 special revolvers, then pretty soon we won’t have any cops anymore. You’d have to be nuts to take the job. Maybe you already do.

I read a criticism in USA Today on this matter where the author questioned the need for police to have mine-resistant transport trucks since there are rarely mines or IEDs deployed in the USA. The criticism suggests that the author hasn’t done any homework at all. Police haven’t sought the MRAP trucks because they worry about mines, they sought them because the military was giving them away essentially free they and provided the ARMOR that police perceive the need for given the reality of heavily armed criminal gangs today. Again, I think it unwarranted to criticize cops for wanting to have the force on hand if necessary to put a stop to armed criminal activity. Anyone criticizing that is free to go join the police department and refuse the use of serious weapons… No takers? Not surprised!

I share in the concern about the militarization of our society, but I don’t share in the opinion that disarmament of the police so that criminal gangs outgun them is the solution. The solution is to find ways to undermine the gangs so that heavily armed police aren’t needed.


So these are the only two options?

And instead, how about legalizing the drugs so that we stop creating a multitude of Al Capone’s and massive drug cartels/gangs? It didn’t work with alcohol, and won’t work with other drugs. I don’t think drug use is good, but creating these waves of bad guys isn’t good either. Phillip Morris, while selling a product that is dangerous to your health, is no danger to anyone, and we don’t have to worry about cigarette cartels and Cig Wars.

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