The Tragedy of Ferguson, the Tragedy of America

missouriIf you want to see the heart of America, take a look at Ferguson, Missouri, a town torn apart, and now ablaze, this day following the acquittal of a white policeman who shot and killed an unarmed black youth.

Not only is Ferguson in the heartland of our nation, it is a reflection of America of the 21st century … which in some ways is not much different than America of the mid-19th century.

In today’s America, the average black citizen owns about 7% of the wealth of the average white citizen. In terms of liquid wealth, the average wealth of whites is 100 times that of the average wealth of blacks (and 65 times that of Latinos). Today’s wealth disparity is but the latest chapter in the history of a nation in which white supremacy has always reigned.

In colonial times, white Americans of means embraced black slavery in order to enrich themselves, while the practice at large reinforced white Protestant beliefs in the supremacy of the Anglo-Saxon race. Wealthy southern slaveowners refused to ratify the U. S. Constitution until northern Constitution Convention delegates preserved their right to own black people as slaves. Then they orchestrated the passage of the Second Amendment partly in order to enshrine their right to raise southern militias for the purpose of putting down future slave insurrections.

In the 19th century, wealthy slaveowners in the South convinced poor whites that black slavery was to their advantage, co-opting common folk whites by declaring that the poorest of whites were superior to the black race. Southern Baptists, evolving from outsiders to insiders in southern culture, quickly embraced the paradigm of white supremacy and black slavery.

Prior to 1790  most white Baptists of the South were either ambivalent or against human slavery. Yet in 1845 white Baptists of the South formed the Southern Baptist Convention in order to perpetuate white supremacy and black slavery, holding aloft a newly-interpreted Bible of God-ordained black slavery and inequality.

By 1860 the ten richest counties in the nation were all in the South, counties characterized by enormous plantations where tens of thousands of black people toiled in bondage, producing unparalleled wealth for their owners. Many of those counties were in South Carolina, the state that led the South into a war to preserve the wealth of white elites by continuing black slavery in perpetuity. The leaders of the Confederacy were clear in calling the war what it was: a war for black slavery and white supremacy.

When defeated and forced to liberate their slaves, white southerners turned to other means of maintaining white supremacy and black inequality. White Christian terrorists, acting in the name of God, in the late 19th century and for most of the 20th century locked blacks out of America’s democratic processes, murdering or beating by the thousands blacks who attempted to transcend their prescribed inequality in all aspects of life, including church, politics, society, education and wealth.

When a black Baptist, Martin Luther King, Jr., finally succeeded in rallying black Americans to overcome white terrorism and forced the federal government to acknowledge racial equality and integrate public schools, whites in the South promptly began pulling their children out of public schools and forming white-only, private “Christian” schools. When blacks moved into white neighborhoods, whites more often than not moved to the suburbs to maintain racial separation. Economic and business policies and structures, controlled by whites, remained closed to blacks at large. White dominated-police forces treated black citizens differently than whites, arresting blacks at a far greater rate, and for lesser offenses, than whites.

In the years since, the white Christian Right has worked hard to tear down public education in America, while in recent years supporting Republican Party efforts to gerrymander and suppress minority voters by enacting state laws making it more and more difficult for blacks and other minorities to vote. More and more of the nation’s wealth is confiscated by huge corporations led by white CEOs who refuse to pay taxes while bribing congresspersons to redistribute ever more wealth from the middle class and poor into their offshore tax havens. At the same time, discriminatory practices against minorities by white-dominated law enforcement agencies continue, even as Republican and Christian Right hatred of the nation’s first black president and of minority immigrants seemingly ratchets ever higher.

Ferguson is America. White privilege and astronomical, systemic black and minority inequality is both our nation’s heritage and the present reality. Ferguson burns today because for blacks and other minorities, justice remains largely out of reach, our nation’s founding principles of human equality and democratic processes too often thwarted by the inherent advantages enjoyed by white citizens.

6 Comments

  1. Just two questions: (1) In Darren Wilson’s shoes (or patrol car) what would you have done? (2) Why do you suppose treacherous and evil white people (especially Southern Baptists 150 years removed from their inherited plantations) elected a black to TWO terms in order to show their hatred and injustice?

    • 1) Not being a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, I can’t really say what I would have done in Darren Wilson’s shoes. Nor can you say that what he did was the right thing. But the overwelming, and very real evidence points to the fact that if Michael Brown had been white, walking in a predominantly white neighborhood, the police officer wouldn’t even have rolled down the window to converse with him.
      2) The voting electorate is responsible for President Obama’s election and re-election. That there are some white Southern Baptists among his supporters is without question, though it is difficult to make the argument that any specific segment of the electorate “elects” a President. There is a very clear segment of the political spectrum, however, that is working at identifying, and attempting to implement ways and means to suppress the votes of minority groups that tend to support the President, and other like-minded politicians, in particularly large percentages. Actions like that, along with dismantling the Voting Rights Act, have long term consequences that come back to bite those who put them in place.
      3) As a white male past 50, I make no claim to understanding the stark difference between the freedom I enjoy because of white privilege, and the lack of it that is experienced by most Americans of color or different ethnic or racial background. So when things occur, such as Ferguson, the way to make a difference is to acknowledge that there is a different experience for people of color in America, and let them have the floor to speak, and then use the freedom that I have to help them get theirs.

  2. Bruce, you failed to mention WA Criswell’s racist harangue in 56 to Joint Session of the SC legislature or Pressler’s family crusade against Carlyle Marney in 56 AT FBC Austin as Pressler’s family already opposed to LBJ and his emerging Civil Rights conscious with Pressler Exxcon family members in the state legislature.

    And Jesse Helms and Albert Lee Smth and their ties to the Birch Society a shadow of the White Citizens Council.

    SBC’s Russ Moore made an innocuous statement on the Garner case in NYC, but history of SBC Fundy takeover Racism; they won’t touch it!

    One more, Al Mohler’s ties to DJ Kennedy who was convinced ML King was a communist.

  3. Why didn’t you throw in that evil SBC Franklin Graham, who wastes his time building churches and digging clean water-wells and fighting Ebola in Africa, helping PTSD-GIs in Alaska, spreading food and doctors/nurses and health-facilities all over the world and has the audacity (learned it from his father, who got it from Jesus) to claim discrimination-wise that black men shouldn’t marry each other?

    • Th’ats going to make things a lot easier from here on out.

  4. Invaluable writing – I loved the facts – Does someone know if I could possibly find a sample KS DoR K-19 copy to type on ?

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This