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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

By Jerry Large, The Seattle Times

A poll and a set of charts both say something important about the situation in Ferguson and around the country. The poll shows the divide between black and white reaction to the shooting, and the charts map the different worlds most white and black Americans inhabit.

I wrote something about Ferguson last week and didn’t think I’d be doing it again this week, but the ongoing protests and the clumsy official handling of the protests keep bothering me. And more than that, what Ferguson says about race in America keeps clawing at my thoughts.

That’s not true for everyone, and the poll captures a divide that is both political and racial in who finds broader significance in the events in Missouri.

It’s the Pew Research poll that came out Monday. In it, 80 percent of black people said the case raises important issues about race. Thirty-seven percent of white people surveyed agreed, but 47 percent said race has been getting too much attention.

The responses broke along political as well as racial lines, but then politics follows clear racial lines. So you won’t be surprised that while 68 percent of Democrats thought the shooting raises important racial issues, only 22 percent of Republicans thought so.

How people view the case affects whether they see a need to address underlying causes and what those causes might be. If the shooting of Michael Brown was only an isolated interaction between a police officer and a young man he might have suspected of doing something wrong, then that’s pretty much the end of the story. The protests and news coverage seem misguided and excessive.

But there is a pattern of white police officers shooting and killing black men that goes beyond chance. The statistics on police stops in that area and many other cities show patterns that go not only beyond chance, but even beyond what would seem to be legitimate law-enforcement needs, as when the numbers show blacks and Latinos are stopped at higher rates, but are far less likely to be found with contraband, for instance, than white people who are stopped. Police seem to be more accurate in judging which white people to stop.

Those disparities often occur with police departments that don’t look like the communities they are policing. Nothing says police and communities have to be exactly the same complexion or ethnicity, but when they aren’t even close, that raises questions. They were far from being matched in Ferguson.

What flared up in Ferguson are pressures that are present beneath the surface in much of the U.S. Police-community interactions that go wrong are dramatic, but the pressure comes from disparities in multiple areas of life.

The New York Times has a feature called The Upshot, and last week it included charts that measure how well white and black Americans are doing in a number of key economic categories.

What the charts show is that we haven’t been making progress on closing gaps for a long time. In some cases, we are moving backward, and the recession took a hammer to many of the gains black Americans had made since the civil-rights legislation of the 1960s.

Here are some of the facts.

In 1972, the jobless rate among African Americans was 2.04 times that among whites. In 2013, it was 2.02. And black unemployment rates are higher regardless of education.

Black people are underrepresented in high-income fields and overrepresented in low-paying jobs. The pay gap between black and white Americans has grown since 1980 and the wealth gap is much wider than the pay gap and growing.

There was a short window after civil-rights legislation in which black Americans made huge strides in education, employment and other areas. The window was closed by economic downturn, the racist war on drugs that further poisoned relationships between the police and the communities where they work, and the withdrawal of political support for advancing equality.

Ferguson brings all of that to mind for me, but apparently not for everyone, and the lines continue to diverge.

AFP Photo/Joshua Lott

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  • Dominick Vila

    Ferguson, like Katrina, revealed a face of America that many of us have ignored for years. The growing inequality between those who have it all, and those who have been behind because of a variety of circumstances, and a system that favors the rich over our most vulnerable systems, should be evident to the most casual observer. Those who support a status quo where the top 1% of the wealthiest members of our society own 2/3 of our national wealth, see absolutely nothing wrong doing whatever it takes to help the elite accumulate more wealth than they already own. Those who are aware of the growing inequality and the unfairness of the current system have failed miserably in their attempts to change, or at least mitigate the effects of a pervasive system designed to help those who don’t need help, at the expense of our most vulnerable citizens. Offsetting the effects of tax breaks, subsidies to oil companies and wealthy farmers, ignoring tax shelters, and preserving loopholes that benefit mostly the wealthy, is perceived by many – including many destitute – as a panacea that may result in a few crumbs trickling down to those who have nothing, even though the record shows that such expectation is just a chimera.
    How much longer will this situation last? I suspect it will last as long as Goebbels look-alike are capable of fooling a naive population more inclined to enjoy Dancing with the Stars than trying to find solutions to help them overcome that challenges they face.

  • charles king

    There is some things wrong in America that our Democracy and some Critical Thinking can solve. This is a policital thing the reason I say that is because we have lost our Democracy. I always throught America was For, By, and Of the People but other ideologies has road the coat tail of our Demcracy and now their ugly ideals are forging ahead of Democracy, but fear Not with some Critical Thinking this Too can be solve. the main thing is that the VOTE is still Supreme and the next time you Vote, and you know Who? the tea-tollers are along with a bunch of Plutocracts(Commissioners) Greedy Capitalistic Pigs, Representives, Republicans and Democractsof all shades Who? are using our tax-dollars and MONIES from rich non tax-payers Corporations and any other A**H**** Who? think they can destroy our Democracy. Democracy works, you just have to keep it working. Unions, work, Social Security works, Obamacare works, Public Education works, J A Z Z works, Far Wages works, Do Not let America fall apart. Critical Thinking and Democracy works. Thank You are the magic words in my book. I Love Ya All. Mr. C. E. KING P. S. keep an eye on those Plutocracts because they hold a lot of power and I DO not think most people know What? they are about so chec out Who? they are.

    • 2ThinkN_Do2

      Unions used to work, loooooong time ago; today they are Fatcat operations sucking the money out of your pocket, taking more for themselves than the majority of members gain in return. The only workers who really benefit, are those who choose not to join but still receive the same perks; I know some that went this route. Not required to join, but garner the same bennies; how is that fair? Been in Unions twice, keyword BEEN. Laid off twice from Union employers. Today I wonder if I will receive any benefits when I retire, as the union I spent 10 years in is floundering and paying out more than they bring in. All my money tied up and gaining ZERO interest for the past 20 years! I may end up with only what I put in for years.

      • ScotDog

        You are so wrong on so many levels it’s hard to know where to start. Unions made America great. Where unions are allowed wages are higher everywhere, convenience stores, gas stations and department stores. (exclude Walmart, they think like modern day slave owners) Unions helped rid the workforce of child labourers, brought you a 8hr. workday, 40hr. workweeks and statutory holidays with pay. These are just somethings everyone enjoys because union members died for them. If you forget these things and believe a rich guy will just give them to you, think about how the Trickle Down Economics Theory worked for the American public.

        • 2ThinkN_Do2

          Guess you didn’t pay attention to the first part of the first sentence.

          • joe schmo

            You are so right…. They used to work….. What is it that Liberals are always stating that Conservative types need to come into the future….. Suppose they need to do the same. Unions are just one area that needs change……

          • ScotDog

            Yes I did, but I also read the rest of your statement. Unfortunately your union appears to have had a unqualified person looking after your money. For that I feel bad. Slamming all unions due to your bad luck is foolish. You should look closer at the union busters and what they want to do with your money, but it is easier to agree with your friends and not do anything, than it is investigate on your own.

          • 2ThinkN_Do2

            Why do I need to look at the Union busters, they don’t have my money, I need to look at what the Union did with the money, how they wasted it; not just mine, most if not all of them. Talk to UPS employees who’ve been around a long time, or Graphic Arts Union members; I’ve been in both.

    • ScotDog

      Unfortunately it’s, For, By, and of the RICH people.

      • joe schmo

        You mean the Liberal rich…don’t you:)

        • ScotDog

          No. Conservatives are the ones taking from you. Liberals are the ones looking after your welfare. Rich conservatives are the people you often quote when you complain about the government. Luckily for you there are people who can see past their lies. Count yourself as one of the lucky ones.

    • idamag

      Your plea is my plea.

  • ExRadioGuy15

    I don’t think the “divide” or racial inequality is “growing”….nor has it really lessened, either….
    The only difference between now and the “olden days” is that the racism and bigotry is more “subtle” most of the time.
    But, Michael Brown being executed by that cop removes all of the subtlety. Once enough people who are uncomfortable with talking about these sad truths get over their discomfort, progress can be made in at least addressing, if not reducing, the divide or inequality.

    • idamag

      It may not e growing, but it is surfacing.

  • 2ThinkN_Do2

    At issue is more than the fact that he was of a different color than the officer, at issue here is the Shoot To Kill vs Stop The Threat ideology that is practiced by LE. Stop The Threat does not have to result in Death, yet there are many that believe that is the only way. I’ve been told by LE officers I’ve known, that STK is the suggested result in a situation when a weapon is drawn. Shooting to incapacitate is not recommended and could result in long drawn out litigation. That leads me to the sad conclusion that it’s really about money and not about life. If you go read about the STK vs STI, they talk about the difficulty shooting a leg, arm or even hand. How about the hip or shoulder area? No, they always talk about center mass, which is a reasonable thought as it is the largest area to focus on. But why were there two bullets to the head? I can only guess, but I imagine the body was going down when those shots were fired. It’s sad that in a Nation that talks about Love, Peace, Charitable work, helping others around the world, that we cannot resolve our own issues here at home. Maybe we need to Focus on the home front rather than saving the world. It’s that old line: one cannot help others before they can help themselves.

    • ralphkr

      Nothing new about Shoot To Kill, 2Think, I was trained as a sniper by US Army Rangers (veterans of WW2 & Korea) & they said that a person who shoots to wound must have a death wish since that often results in missing. The exception to that was when they were on the Yalu and orders came from HQ in Japan to gut shoot anyone they spotted across the river who seemed important (car pull in and all the Chinese soldiers would fall in at attention). The same was drilled into us in LEO training and this was in the 1950s… shoot for center mass…only the Lone Ranger shoots for the hand.

      • 2ThinkN_Do2

        I understand where you are coming from, I still wonder why they don’t advocate shooting for the hip or shoulder area? The hip/pelvic area seems it would be as good a place as any to disable someone from forward motion and it’s a reasonably large zone, even from a slightly canted position toward you. It seems to be one of the wider zones of the body on most people (maybe too wide on some for deep enough penetration though). I know, we don’t have minutes to analyze the situation, not even seconds and yes, once the adrenalin gets going, there’s little to stop the response, until the threat has been stopped. PS – Thanks for serving the people with your life.