The murder of Michael Brown, the verbal zigzags of the police, and the riots that followed in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson throw a reality that is as sociological as it is political into sharp relief: the rampant institutionalization of racism 50 years after the fight for civil rights.
Situated 20 minutes away from St. Louis, the town of Ferguson is home to more than 20,000 residents. Two-thirds of them are African-American, but the mayor is white; the school board is made up of six white people, a Hispanic person and no black people. And the police force? White people comprise 94 percent of it. As do the 90 municipalities that surround St. Louis, Ferguson draws up its budget using various fines, parking tickets, etc. In short, the funds that come from penalizing citizens make up 25 percent of the town’s total revenue. A fact to note: In certain suburbs, bookings represent 50 percent of total revenue.
In 2013 in Ferguson, 93 percent of persons arrested were black, people who represent, I repeat, two-thirds of the population. Another example: 34 percent of white truck drivers were guilty of various misdemeanors, versus 22 percent of black drivers, but the former were sentenced less often. In short, black citizens furnish a greater proportion of the public coffers than do white citizens. Among the latter, one notes that those who live in the grandest municipalities refuse, in most cases, to be linked in many ways to public transit. Clearly, one will underline and remember that the motto held dear by the Ku Klux Klan and its sycophants, “separate but equal,” remains a part of the sociopolitical profile of the United States.
They are furious in Ferguson, and in other places. And we dare say we understand them. Socioeconomic injustice, the political misappropriation by which they have been constantly targeted for months, is the basis of a contradiction, and a resounding one at that, of what the Supreme Court ordered just one year ago: the abrogation of a legal monument to civil rights, which guaranteed citizens equality in exercising their right to vote. One year ago, Chief Justice John Roberts had reckoned that, “Today, the nation is no longer divided along those lines,” and that, “having no logical relation to the present day,” the law drawn up by Lyndon B. Johnson had to be sent to the archives, as, “nearly 50 years later, things have changed dramatically.” Nothing has changed — absolutely nothing.
The study by professors John Logan of Brown University and Brian Stults of Florida State University, published after the Supreme Court’s action and devoted to geographic segregation, proves it. How about that! The truth is, thanks to their work, that the academic duo noticed the civil laws bearing Lyndon B. Johnson’s stamp had barely been voted for when mayors set out to modernizing the 1926 Birmingham protocol. At that time, Alabama's elected representatives had established racial zoning and, consequently, fenced the black people in. Over the course of the last 40 years, the aforementioned modernization has been pursued as follows: enclose the black people with expressways and freeways. This is clearly explained by the fact that even if the voting during presidential and legislative elections has to do with the federal government, federal rules do not extend to the organization of the vote. And so, as if by chance, the network of polling stations in black districts was not as well supported as that of white districts. Separate but equal….
Nothing has changed, second point. After the Supreme Court sanctioned what was discussed above, the Pew Research Center stated the results of a socioeconomic analysis. It is quite simple: if the average net assets of an African-American couple come up to $5,700, that of the Latino couple is close to $6,300 and that of a white couple is over $113,000. What else? One-third of black people have no assets, versus 15 percent of white people. Separate but equal….
Nothing has changed, third point. In July 2013, the University of Pennsylvania released a report on the health of American women. We will focus on breast cancer. The number of white women who survived this disease was placed at 70 percent, the number of black women at 56 percent. Due to many variables, the latter group was examined much less than the white group.
It is clear that everything, absolutely everything, remains in the same state. Which state? The one that was dissected at the beginning of the 1960s. On the political and economic sides, on the social and cultural fronts, the black person in the U.S. remains the subject of hatred beyond understanding. Yesterday, it was visible. Today, it is camouflaged behind the screen of hypocrisy. In a word, nothing has changed.