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Thursday, December 4th, 2014

Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Do you know anyone who does not have an opinion of just what happened in Ferguson, Missouri? The problem is that in trying to make some sense out of what has become a tragedy for everyone involved, misinformation has been spewed out from all sides. Former New York Senator Daniel Moynihan summed up the incongruities well in saying that: “You are entitled to your own opinion but you’re not entitled to your own facts.”

For too many critics of what happened in Ferguson, personal opinions, at least in their own minds, have become the irrefutable facts of the calamity that unfolded. So whatever it’s worth, here’s a list of what I consider to be factually based conclusions of what can be drawn from this disastrous confrontation.

First of all, it’s not reasonable to compare the Trayvon Martin case and Michael Brown. Martin was not doing anything wrong and was being followed by a thug named George Zimmerman. Brown is not nearly as sympathetic. He is shown on videotape committing a felony by attacking a convenience store clerk and robbing the store. He was a ruffian who, according to grand jury testimony, shouted profanities at and assaulted a police officer, refused to stop when the officer confronted him, then charged and grabbed for the officer’s gun. It’s unclear what happened next, but it’s quite clear that Brown put himself in an extremely dangerous situation.

The county prosecutor is being blistered in the national press for not aggressively pushing for an indictment, and for giving the grand jury all available information. Yeah, right! What generally happens is that the prosecutor gives the grand jury only what he wants them to see and hear, so as to make criminal charges a sure thing. Remember the old saying that a prosecutor, if he so desires, can indict a ham sandwich? Have we come to a stage in the judicial process where a prosecutor, particularly when he may be uncertain himself that a crime has been committed, has to hide evidence in favor of the accused and refuses to allow all the evidence, both pro and con, to be made available to the grand jury?

Does whatever happened that night justify the orgy of anarchy that took place, no not in Iraq, but in Ferghanistan? The destroying of businesses, many owned by African Americans who worked their whole lives to build up? And who can forget Michael Brown’s uncle, who spiked the Ferguson mob fervor by shouting out to “burn this bi**h down,” followed by rioting, looting, burning down of businesses, and setting numerous police vehicles ablaze.

Finally, many are asking how come a city that is almost 70% black has a police department that is 94% white? Of the six city council members, five are white. The mayor is a white republican. The school board has seven members with one black in a school district that is 75% black. So how can a city with an overwhelming majority of black citizens allow themselves to be governed by an overwhelming number of white public officials?

Remember the old saying that elections have consequences? Well that’s what happened in Ferguson. Black voter turnout was some three times lower than that of white voters. In the last municipal election, just six percent of black voters showed up at the polls. That means that 94% of local blacks opted not to participate and elect those who make the laws that govern Ferguson.

Under Missouri state law, voters in municipalities like Ferguson have the legal right to recall all of its elected officials. But it takes a vote of the people, and the vast majority of Ferguson’s black community has shown an unwillingness to engage in the process of electing and governing. What’s the other old saying, “you’ve got to pay to play”, and playing in this instance is simply showing up to vote on Election Day.

Yes, we have significant problems of race in America today. MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough was right on this week when he said that “a young black man is treated much worse than a young white man on the street, in the courtroom, in jail. There are two Americas when it comes to criminal justice.” But a change in the civic fabric of America that pertains to race relations should not be defined by Michael Brown’s actions. Leadership across the racial spectrum can find a better focal point than what happened in Ferguson.

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownla.com.  You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownla.com.


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