The recent fatal police shooting of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO has sparked a national conversation. All eyes are on this St. Louis suburb now, but symptoms of the racial divide can be felt in communities across the country.
While the investigation continues into the circumstances around Michael Brown’s death, this conversation continues about the larger context, including racial disparities, police-community relations, and protests and actions in St. Louis and beyond.
Capt. Ronald Johnson, the Missouri Highway Patrol officer who has been leading the police response since the first difficult days in Ferguson, seems to have gained universal respect for his ability to listen to the community and command a measured response by the police. His leadership provides an example of community policing strategies that balance the needs of the community and the role of law enforcement. “There has been that conflict,” the captain said. “But I see myself as a man first. Then a policeman, and being a black man.”
At Not In Our Town, our goal is to LISTEN UP and hear from the people of Ferguson and St. Louis. We have a film team covering rallies and events where people gather to express themselves.
Local reporters and news outlets including St. Louis Public Radio, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Nine Network of Public Media and the St. Louis American provide local insight into the challenges there. NIOT.org coverage will also continue when the international media has moved on. We will be looking at the larger question, How can community members and the law enforcement agencies that serve in Ferguson, North St. Louis County, and the region find a way to talk to each other and tackle the disparities that have surfaced in this crisis?
Young African-American leaders are stepping up to the plate in the St. Louis area. We need to hear their voices, and support the efforts of diverse forward-thinking leaders who seek long term solutions.
Recent news articles that provide context for what’s happening in Ferguson
On the Ground in Ferguson
“You Can’t Understand Ferguson Without First Understanding These Three Things: Reflections from a former state senator from St. Louis,” by Jeffrey Smith, New Republic
“They want white St. Louis to quit it with the knee-jerk paternalism and actually hear their message. They want white St. Louis to finally make an effort to grapple with its shameful racial history, a history in which a complex alchemy of private decisions and public policies conspired to leave north St. Louis County divided by race and class. They want to win some agency of their own lives instead of being at the mercy of forces that have so often let them down—or actively impeded them.”
"Ferguson's Freedom Summer?" by Jay Caspian Kang, The New Yorker
"...they said, that white protesters were not all that welcome in Ferguson. At the same time, Smith told me over Skype, “to a one, every black person who has responded to that tweet from St. Louis has told the fearful but sympathetic people, ‘Please come and join us. This won’t succeed without you—they’ll only listen if this thing is diverse.’ ”
“A Fair Inquiry for Michael Brown,” The New York Times
“Justice for Michael Brown also means that local political officials must begin to address the sense of powerlessness that many black residents have expressed. The mayor and City Council of Ferguson have pledged to try to increase the number of black police officers (currently three of 53) and provide incentives for officers to live in the city limits.”
Ferguson: Symbol of a National Wound
"Ferguson Killing Inspires Young Black Activists" by Frederica Boswell, NPR
"The nation has been gripped by the ongoing protests following the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. But the demonstrations sparked by his death have spread far beyond the streets in his community. Young activists from around the country tell us how the events in Ferguson moved them, and what they hope might come from this moment."
“How Much Racial Profiling Happens in Ferguson? In the past, it's been difficult to definitively answer a question like this. A new, nationwide database might help.” By Alexis C. Madriga, The Atlantic
“The problem of racism both includes and goes beyond what a police department does. Sometimes, a police department has bad numbers because the police engage in racist actions, and other times, the number of stops and arrests the police make are a symptom of ‘America’s inability to make better our history of racism and oppression,’ as [UCLA’s Center for Policing Equity Co-founder and President Atiba] Goff put it.”
“Americans’ Deep Racial Divide on Trusting the Police,” by Noah Gordon, The Atlantic
“While the focus for the last two weeks has been on the specific racial tensions boiling over in the St. Louis suburbs, Gallup rounded up several years of polling data showing that these stories about black distrust of the police in Ferguson match with broader perceptions among African Americans nationwide. Black Ferguson residents’ lack of faith is representative of broader national attitudes.”
Talking About Race
“Constructing a Conversation on Race,” by Charles M. Blow, New York Times
“I urge people to fight on two fronts: Work to dismantle as much systematic bias as you can, as much for posterity as for the present, and make the best choice you can under the circumstances to counteract the effects of these injustices on your life right now.”
“Black People Are Not Ignoring ‘Black on Black’ Crime,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic
“The politics of respectability are, at their root, the politics of changing the subject—the last resort for those who can not bear the agony of looking their country in the eye. The policy of America has been, for most of its history, white supremacy. The high rates of violence in black neighborhoods do not exist outside of these facts—they evidence them.”
"How To Teach Kids About What's Happening in Ferguson" by Marcia Chatelain, The Atlantic
"In this kind of situation, people all say, what can I do? I have few talents in a crisis, but I do know I’m pretty good at teaching, and I knew Ferguson would be a challenge for teachers: When schools opened across the country, how were they going to talk about what happened... Suggest a book, an article, a film, a song, a piece of artwork, or an assignment that speaks to some aspect of Ferguson."
Stay tuned for a short video featuring Ferguson voices on NIOT.org.