by Dish Staff
Nobody who lives in the area could possibly think that local government doesn’t matter any more, and a community capable of organizing nightly protest marches should have relatively little trouble getting people to come out and vote. And if Ferguson’s African-American residents do vote, they should have relatively little trouble installing a government that hears their concerns and leans against the systemic inequities in the American criminal justice system.
In other words, the town at the center of this drama may well see a real improvement in political representation. The deeper problem is going to lie elsewhere — in the many towns large and small where people of color are a minority of eligible voters and the basis of white political power is firmer.
Friedersdorf wants recall elections:
A successful recall of Ferguson’s mayor and city council is the best outcome I can imagine from a protest movement that is justifiably angry, but uncertain about how to achieve its goals and at risk of losing public support if the streets turn more violent. Protesters want transparency in the investigation into Brown’s death, accountability for the police department, and an end to leadership that demonstrates such disregard and seeming contempt for the city’s black people. Perhaps existing pressure on city leaders, or appeals already made to the Department of Justice, will help advance those goals—but while more night protests would seem to offer scant hope for additional gains, replacing the city’s elected leadership would advance the protesters’ goals directly and dramatically. The effort would be nonviolent, it might well increase civic participation for years or even generations to come, and if successful, it would send an inspiring message to those who feel powerless: that a system very much stacked against them is still a far more powerful weapon than a molotov cocktail.
Jonathan Rodden points out that, “while St. Louis is indeed among the most segregated metropolitan regions in the United States, Ferguson and some of its North County neighbors are among the most racially integrated municipalities in Missouri and well beyond”:
Let us not learn the wrong lessons from recent events in Missouri. By no means does Ferguson prove the defeatist claim that blacks and whites cannot live together in peace as the inner suburbs transform. Those of us who grew up in the integrated Ferguson-Florissant area in recent decades know otherwise. It is not a post-racial paradise, but it is a functioning multiracial community. What we are seeing in Ferguson is not merely the latest manifestation of the age-old problem of segregation and housing discrimination. Rather, it is evidence that the best hope for a solution – -the creation of integrated middle-class neighborhoods such as Ferguson — cannot work without political inclusion and accountability.
Fred Siegel is much more pessimistic about Ferguson’s future:
Riots bring but one certainty—enormous economic and social costs. Businesses flee, taking jobs and tax revenues with them. Home values decline for all races, but particularly for blacks. Insurance costs rise and civic morale collapses. The black and white middle classes move out. Despite its busy port and enormous geographic assets, Newark, New Jersey has never fully recovered from its 1967 riot. This year, Newark elected as its mayor Ras Baraka, the son and political heir of Amiri Baraka—the intellectual inspiration for the 1967 unrest.
The story is similar in Detroit, which lost half its residents between 1967 and 2000. Civic authority was never restored after the late 1960s riots, which never really ended; they just continued in slow motion. “It got decided a long time ago in Detroit,” explained Adolph Mongo, advisor to the jailed former “hip-hop mayor,” Kwame Kilpatrick, that “the city belongs to the black man. The white man was a convenient target until there were no white men left in Detroit.” The upshot, explained Sam Riddle, an advisor to current congressman John Conyers, first elected in 1965, is that “the only difference between Detroit and the Third World in terms of corruption is that Detroit don’t have no goats in the streets.”