Last night, the Ferguson, Missouri City Council held a meeting to discuss all of the terrible things that have happened since Mike Brown was shot by a Ferguson police officer last month. It went badly. But before we get into that, let’s talk numbers, specifically demographics.
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the city of Ferguson breaks down as follows:
- .4% – Other races
- .4% – Native American
- .5% – Asian
- 1.2% – Hispanic or Latino
- 2% – Multiracial
- 29.3% – White
- 67.4% – African American
You probably see where this is leading. Compared to the rest of the country this is a total reversal. Black Americans comprise, on average, 13% or so of the U.S. population. In Ferguson, Black Americans are a complete majority. They represent an unstoppable voting block.
Now, look at the top picture again. You’re not hallucinating, what you’re seeing is real. Ferguson has exactly one Black City Councilman, one (he’s on the right).
That brings us back to this specific meeting in which a Black woman charged towards the Mayor (seated in the middle) and was restrained by other Black Fergusonians after he wouldn’t answer a question regarding whether or not Darren Wilson, the officer who shot Mike Brown, was still being paid.
What universe are we living in when members of the absolute majority population feel so powerless that they resort to attempted physical attacks or tongue lashings on minority population mayors during recorded and open-to-the-public City Council meetings? Here’s the whole video if you’re a masochist:
So, how does this happen? Here’s how:
Ferguson, Mo. is the latest fault line in America’s racial divide, but blacks and whites there have at least one thing in common: Neither group tends to participate in municipal elections.
The fact that the white community’s anemic turnout (just 17% of those eligible participated in Ferguson’s 2013 municipal election) regularly eclipses the even lower participation of black voters (6% in 2013) helps explain the curious disconnect between the demography of Ferguson — which is nearly 70% black — and that of its City Council and police force, which have remained overwhelmingly white.
Hardly anyone in Ferguson votes but Black people may as well not be voting at all given the turnout. This is like the big kid in the school yard getting bullied by the little kid because he doesn’t know his own strength. For Christ sakes, democracy is intended to serve the majority. Charging a stage in a Church to chew out the Mayor or slap him or whatever isn’t going to get it. Black Americans have been a majority in Ferguson for fourteen years (since 2000). They could have an all Black or nearly all Black City Council and Mayor right now. They could have a majority Black police force right now.
Ferguson’s White Mayor and White City Council aren’t going to do what Black citizens want. They aren’t going to hire more Black police unless the Feds force them. They aren’t going go out of their way to make Black people there feel at home. None of that is ever going to happen because no one ever voluntarily gives over power. They’re not going to hand over the reins just because they’re nice and, frankly, in this situation, they don’t need to.
6% is bullshit. You don’t need protests to win the city. You don’t need the outside help of nationally famous Civil Rights figures. You don’t need interest groups to support you. You don’t need anyone to win this. Black folks of Ferguson, vote in massive numbers during the next elections and in this recall and then you can run things. There’s no alternative to this, Black or not, poor or not, you’ve got to stand up and be counted if you want a change. Everything else is just pointing and yelling.