It is impossible to suggest that the events in Ferguson, Missouri are not racially motivated and instigated. When we learn that a police force has 53 officers, only 3 of which are African American, a red flag should go up. It should have gone up decades ago.
We can debate whether a police force should have a racial balance that matches its local community. We cannot debate whether a local police force should have a racial balance that represents the country as a whole. That is to say, it is entirely possible that some civil service group may not have a racial diversity that is an exact match with its surrounding community. But if any civil service group has a racial balance that does not gel with the even lower standard of the country as a whole, then some form of institutionalized racism must be taking place.
Ferguson is calculated as 67% African American. The United States as a whole is calculated at 13% African American. In Ferguson, African Americans make up 5.6% of the police force – well less than half of the national ratio, and well less than 1% of the ratio in Ferguson itself. In light of this, institutionalized bigotry cannot be debated.
It may be fair to argue that many of the participants in that racism may not be aware of it. Like mice in a maze, looking out for their own interests, they do not see the maze itself much less the devious designs of the maze builders. None the less, at some point we would think that a participant could look to his left, then his right, to his front, and behind him, and realize that there is something too homogenous and odd taking place.
Given that this insensitivity appears to exist not only with the institutions themselves, but as well as with the participants within those institutions, it is then obvious that the insensitivity will be displayed when the duties of those institutions are carried out on the populace. If the boss has designed a racial standard, he probably hires those who agree with that racial standard, who in turn carry that racial standard into the job itself.
As such, there is little surprise when small events become overblown. The act of asking individuals to walk on the sidewalk turns into a virtual execution. The act of protecting a community becomes a military assault to put down those who have been disenfranchised. Bigotry rears its very ugly head.
Likewise, there should be little surprise when those who have been ostracized respond with reactionary vigor. Unlike the chicken and the egg where defining which came first is difficult, first is all too obvious. The structural racism came first, forcing the people to live with unfair pressures. Extreme but predictable events blow the release valve and the populace lashes back, which should be equally predictable, and entirely understandable.
Out of these recent events, racism has become painfully clear, not that it hadn’t been there before. Unfortunately we had to experience a tragic event in order to have some closed eyes opened. For too long some sectors of the American equation have been turning a blind eye to the bigotry that exists, at times suggesting that old wounds have been healed, and at times even suggesting that racial tensions come from the other side. Additionally, these recent events have highlighted the dreaded military industrial complex. The local cop on the beat is now a carefully selected enforcer. Gone are the days of getting kittens out of trees and helping old ladies cross the street.
The events in Ferguson will eventually settle. The tear gas will clear, and the contestants will take a breath. However, it is certain that another such event will take place again, in some other town. These events have become all too common, the institutionalized bigotry coupled with the idea that laws are to be enforced rather than facilitated, exists throughout the country. When another event takes place, which it will, the tensions and repressed fears and resentment we see in Ferguson will resurface, with Ferguson added to them. Racism is the powder keg, Ferguson is the fuse, and the fuse has been lit.