Saturday, August 16, 2014

ferguson is mostly black, so why it its government so white?


slate |  Ferguson, Missouri, is a majority-black city governed mostly by whites. The mayor is white. The police chief is white. The police force is 94 percent white. Only one of its six city council members is black. These facts, as much as anything, have shaped the protests over the police shooting of Michael Brown. Ferguson, with a 67 percent black population, is a place where the largest community has little political voice.

Why is that? David Kimball, a political science professor at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, has studied the dynamics of race and elections in St. Louis proper. He says that the pattern in Ferguson is common throughout the city’s inner-ring suburbs, where blacks have gradually replaced whites in recent decades.

The issue boils down to who votes. Ferguson is roughly two-thirds black, but compared with the city’s whites, the community is younger, poorer (the city has a 22 percent poverty rate overall), and, as the New York Times recently wrote, somewhat transient, prone to moving “from apartment to apartment.” All of these factors make black residents less likely to go to the polls, especially in low-turnout municipal elections. And so whites dominate politically. “The entire mobilization side of it is what accounts for the difference,” Kimball said.

0 comments: