City officials in Ferguson, MO hoped for the best. But they failed to adequately prepare for the worse. So the damage from the civil unrest that followed will be long-term, if not irreparable.
The siege was riddled with strategic miscalculations from the state hierarchy to the street command level. The deterrence of riots, not crowd control, should have been the primary objective of the Ferguson mayor and law enforcement. The governor’s state of emergency declaration and mobilization of the state police did not include deployment of the national guard until after enraged protesters set fire to buildings and cars and looted businesses. After all, there were glaring precursors that a grand jury might decide that no criminal charges would be brought against white police officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen.
However, a slow response to the riot’s flashpoint was the least of Ferguson’s failures.
Between the time Officer Wilson fired the fatal shot – and the decision reached by the grand jury -– black and white city leaders demonstrated an utter lack of courage by not engaging in an honest and open discussion about why inordinate numbers of black men end up on a collision course with cops. A good place to start would have been the acknowledgement that blacks commit a disproportionate share of the nation’s crime.
No less important is that over the past fifty years the proliferation of high-crime inner-city neighborhoods parallels the rise in families abandoned by fathers, which is more than three times higher among blacks than whites.
Boys and girls from broken families tend to live in fractured communities where poverty thrives. Jobless, uneducated and often unloved, they wander aimlessly through adolescence toward an uncertain future. Detachment from their community is the predictable consequence. When family, institutions, schools and churches are not able or willing to teach them values, it should not be surprising to see this breakdown reflected in an increase of aggressive behavior.
But their participation in the crime culture is not a function of their race as much as the absence of marriage. Race tends to surface because of the wide differences in marriage rates among racial/ethnic groups. Detroit, for example, has a largely poor, crime-prone, overwhelmingly black population and chaotic economic and social conditions. The race connection is that in Detroit up to 80 percent of all babies are born to a single mother who may never marry.
Among broken families, the crime rate is very high. Among two-parent households, the crime rate is substantially lower. And there is compelling evidence that wherever there is a predominance of single mothers and absent fathers -whether white or black – you find children from these relationships contributing to crime statistics and clashing with police.
Black political and community leaders find comfort in deflecting blame on – and claiming that our young are victims of an “oppressive system.” It is as if we are incapable of raising our children to fit into the American mainstream without some benevolent, liberating act by sympathetic whites or government intervention. It’s a sad commentary. But then, the course they have chosen is a lot easier than addressing the root cause of the social disease festering within.
Hundreds of black youth have been shot and/or killed in Detroit and Chicago since the unfortunate death of Michael Brown. Neither mass protests, looting, burning, widespread indignation nor dialogue about how to eradicate black-on-black violence accompanied these deaths. Reticent black leaders are only jolted out of their complacency when a white cop snuffs out the life of a black kid.
For our own survival, the conversation must turn to what is the best way to put a safe, respectable distance between all cops and black males. It must begin with a moral revival that has as its cornerstone the restoration of the family. Otherwise, “no justice, no peace” will become a faint echo resonating from our demise.