The Making of Ferguson

Instead of calling for more “conversations about race” and more marches against police brutality, it’s time we learned why the killing in Ferguson was inevitable and will continue to be so until we make up for deliberate, explicit federal policy (most of it inaugurated under FDR).

For a tight, appalling summary, listen to this interview with the author (Richard Rothstein) of the study linked to below. It only runs about half an hour, but I bet for most of us it is the most eye-opening information on the subject we will ever experience:

The conditions that created Ferguson cannot be addressed without remedying a century of public policies that segregated our metropolitan landscape.

About Thomas J. Hubschman

Thomas J. Hubschman is the author of Look at Me Now, My Bess, Song of the Mockingbird, Billy Boy, Father Walther’s Temptation, The Jew’s Wife & Other Stories and three science fiction novels. His work has appeared in New York Press, The Antigonish Review, Eclectica, The Blue Moon Review and many other publications. Two of his short stories were broadcast on the BBC World Service.

Posted on December 3, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Well, Tom, since I greatly prefer reading as a mode of learning as opposed to listening to anything but music, I finally listened to the interviews you listed above only because the recommendation came from you. As you promised, it was mind-boggling.

    The interesting thing is that my husband, who is a English sociologis,t was familiar with the findings and the discriminatory housing laws. When he was studying for a masters at the University of Chicago, he studied the Detroit housing policies and their outcomes in depth. And of course, the university of Chicago itself is one of the institutions that bought land in the middle of the city and is surrounded today by slums.

    I agree with Rothstein that justice requires a strong affirmative action in relation to real estate to correct the terrible injustice of these housing policies (which I suspect were made even worse by the sub-prime fiasco). Unfortunately, it looks as if too much of White America today is either unaware or totally opposed to righting these wrongs.

    I am now asking myself if there is any way through this as a result of action taken by Blacks instead of relying on the fairness that should come from the system that imposed it in the first place. In any case, it will not be too many years before Hispanics and Blacks outnumber Whites in America. Let us hope that they have a greater sense of equality than has been shown to them.

  2. The non-reaction to this post, Terry, has been surprising and then depressing. I posted it on Facebook, where I always get some sort of response to anything I put up. Not so in this case. Not a single “like,” even.

    I’ve been wondering why. Obviously there’s nothing to be taken personally about the lack of response. The reason must be that my FB “friends,” all liberals and well-educated, I’d say, didn’t see it as relevant. And yet, what makes their non-response so shocking is that the history Rothstein provides explains everything: the basis of “racial” prejudice as well as the present social and economic conditions of most African Americans. It’s really is as if, to refer to something Rothstein says in that interview, we had protested the Soweto massacre without addressing the Apatheid ideology that precipitated it. He could have used an analogy more up-to-date and blatant in today’s Israel-Palestine.

    Isn’t it remarkable, professor, how the human mind can simply edit out anything it doesn’t care to deal with morally? How much easier to go out and march against the latest police killing than to do something about the discrimatory public policy of a hundred years. I hear people bragging about how they marched or put on a t-shirt after the killing on Staten Island and hear them exhorting others to do the same. Well and good, but it will certainly all come to nought without addressing the underlying causes. Obama’s own tepid, tired words about having patience could be taken out of the speeches of the politicians of the 1950s.

    I’m not the one to suggest the best way to remedy the appalling situation we are all guilty of tolerating for so long. I do see, though, that it requires a massive response, an equivelant of the de-Nazification and economic boost that was given to Germany after WWII (for purely chauvanistic American reasons). I suspect not even a non-white majority will want to face up to such a task. But we can at least make known the open public policies that caused the situation, can’t we? We can at least feel some shame for being the beneficiaries of those policies at the expense of 12% of our fellow Americans who were already the victims of centuries of slavery and oppression. Shame might give rise to action.

    But even as I write these words, I feel despair. Despair is sometimes just another word for being realistic. Why would a nation that is in denial about every other atrocity it has been party to for the past four hundred years suddenly own up to this one? If the reaction to Rothstein’s study is generally what I’ve experienced myself, what reason is there for hope? I thought this study would be an ah-ha moment for America.

    Thank you for your own thoughtful words on the subject, Terry. And thanks to your husband too for sharing his experience with Detroit.

    • I do agree that many of us white Americans either do not appreciate or even worse, don’t care very much, about the racial injustice that still pervades our Land of the Free. I do wonder, though, if you had indicated a little more explicitly what was in Rothstein’s report if you might have received more responses. Before I finally read it, I assumed that it was more contemporary – the militarization of the police, for instance, or an analysis of the prejudicial effects of the “zero tolerance” policy. And with the holidays and all the news that keeps coming up on the media about innocent Blacks brutalized by police being let off without charge, people might have felt that they just couldn’t take any more.

      I don’t know about you, but there are times when I just have to walk away from the news in order to maintain my energy for caring at all. I feel there just isn’t anything I can do, and depression is hardly a constructive alternative.

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