The least surprising and also least helpful reactions regarding the events of Ferguson, Missouri, are those that promote a mostly racial narrative. Yes, it is true – and no one disputes – that incidents like this shooting can and do chafe race relations.
There are whites who, subconsciously or consciously, identify with Darren Wilson, the white cop. And there are blacks who, too often on the wrong side of history, identify with Michael Brown, the black teenager. And yes, there are whites who blame white privilege and side with blacks, just as there are blacks who are embarrassed by arson and looting and don’t wanted to be grouped in with the rioters.
But the real story here is about government and not race, which I will get to in a moment. Before we go there, let me say something optimistic about race relations. The Millennial generation, fast becoming a majority of the workforce, is the most colorblind generation in modern history. My 8-year-old son chooses friends wholly on the basis of personality and common interest. If he sees race at all, it’s like how older generations viewed hair color – of no importance.
I’m no Millennial. In my generation it was quite easy to be cloistered away from other cultures, racial and religious minorities, and recent immigrants. At my rural Pennsylvania high school, if you didn’t have a German surname, the locals considered you an outsider. My graduating class had only one black student – to be precise, he was biracial and spoke with a Pennsylvania Dutch accent. Diverse it was not.
I’m not here to lecture anyone about their beliefs. I deem political correctness as corrosive to social harmony as racism. Believe, love and hate as you wish as long as you don’t aggress against others. But I will emphatically state that my life is enriched by my black friends, my lifestyle is made more enjoyable thanks to black talents and black culture, and this country is immensely more lively and interesting in its diversity than if it were inhabited solely by a bunch of pasty pink Englishmen.
So back to Ferguson. While everyone else is fixated on black this white that, ask yourselves the following questions: What has led to the rise of the police state and the warrior cop? Is the constant barrage of headlines of people, kids and dogs getting shot by the police a coincidence? Which policy choices contributed to the black teen unemployment rate skyrocketing from 15% in the 1950s to over 42% today? Why did the poverty rate decline from 95% in 1900 to 12-14% in the mid-1960s and then get stuck at that level until today? Answering these questions will get you much closer to the truth about Ferguson than casting the problem in black versus white.
More on that in Ferguson, Part Deux.