The Lessons Of Ferguson

Joel Kotkin argues that despite what Ferguson has led many to believe, class matters more than race at this point in the US:

[R]ace will not define the 2014 election, or likely those that follow. Instead the real defining issue—class—does not fit so easily into the current political calculus. In terms of racial justice, we have made real progress since the ’60s, when even successful educated minorities were discriminated against and the brightest minority students were often discouraged from attending college. Today an African-American holds the highest office in the land, and African Americans also fill the offices of U.S. attorney general and national security advisor. This makes the notion that race thwarts success increasingly outdated.

But at the same time that formal racial barriers have been demolished, the class divide continues to grow steeper than in at any time in the nation’s recent history. Today America’s class structure is increasingly ossified, and this affects not only minorities, who are hit disproportionately, but also many whites, who constitute more than 40 percent of the nation’s poor. Upward mobility has stalled under both Bush and Obama, not only for minorities but for vast swaths of working class and middle class Americans. Increasingly, it’s not the color of one’s skin that determines one’s place in society, but access to education and capital, often the inherited variety.

In the wake of Ferguson, which the Dish covered extensively here, Jamelle Bouie takes stock of the myths to come out of the fetid corners of right-wing blogs and social media:

Did you know Michael Brown was a killer? Did you know he was a devoted gang member with an extensive juvenile record who routinely robbed convenience stores and committed acts of mayhem? And did you know that when Officer Darren Wilson shot Brown, he wasn’t using unjustified force, he was defending his life? The 6-foot-4, 300-pound 18-year-old fractured Wilson’s eye socket while reaching for his gun, and was killed while charging at Wilson to land another blow.

If this sounds suspect—if it sounds almost unbelievable—then your head is in the right place. Nothing in this narrative is true. Racist innuendo aside, there’s no evidence Brown was a violent gang member, nor is there evidence of any serious wrongdoing—as a juvenile, Brown was never convicted of a felony nor was he facing charges as an adult. And while Wilson was taken to the hospital after his encounter with Brown, he didn’t suffer serious injuries—the fractured eye socket is a myth.

But if you read websites like the Independent Journal Review, dive into far-right media, or explore the world of Darren Wilson support pages, you’ll find plenty of people who buy the fantasy. They reject the mainstream picture of Brown: A typical teenager, struggling to carve an identity and a life out of his beliefs, actions, and missteps. In their minds Brown was a budding criminal, and Wilson a hero. Or, as one Wilson supporter said during a demonstration for the officer, “We’ll all see this in the end that it was a good shooting. You know, it was a good kill.”