Ferguson and the ‘race’ problem

I’ve watched carefully how the riots in and over Ferguson, MO have been reported and discussed over the past week.  Some news outlets (notably CNN) have been almost transparently desperate in their attempts to whitewash the rioters (you should pardon the expression), trying to make people believe that the problem’s minor and not very widespread.  The New York Post has an excellent exposé of the network’s attempts.  It makes interesting and educational reading.  CNN’s also attempted to ensure that any discussion of the racial element in the Ferguson situation is classified as ‘racism’ one way or another – see, for example, this article, which is about as biased towards the liberal/progressive viewpoint as any I’ve seen anywhere.

On the other hand, far too many on the conservative/libertarian side of the aisle have attempted to portray all those resentful of the Ferguson grand jury verdict as thugs, low-lifes and ‘ghetto trash’.  A lot of them are;  but I don’t think they’re a majority of those concerned by what this incident has revealed.  To ‘tar all of them with the same brush’ (and yes, I know that expression has its origins in slavery and racial discrimination – but so does the present discussion) is as unjust, in its own way, as to try to portray the rioters and looters as poor misunderstood racially-suffering little baa lambs.

I think a key issue hasn’t yet been addressed by anybody, and that is:  This isn’t really a race issue at all – it’s a class issue.  America prides itself on being a relatively ‘classless’ society;  in fact, one of the factors discussed during the Revolutionary era was the value of doing away with nobility and the upper classes in favor of an egalitarian political solution.  Nevertheless, we do have a series of classes in the USA today, based more on economics than on birth.  Very often, what’s couched in terms of ‘racism’ or racial politics is, in fact, a matter of class.

Let me give you a few examples.  Over the past week, on an e-mail list to which I belong, two articles from American Renaissance have been discussed.  Both are from lawyers, the first dating back to 2003, the second from earlier this year.  (Yes, I’m aware that American Renaissance has its own agenda and viewpointSo does almost everyone else in this debate.  For example, the Southern Poverty Law Center appears to be just as bad, but on the other side of the political spectrum.  One has to use any source with due care and diligence.)

In the first AmRen article, ‘Urban Law 101 – What I Didn’t Learn in Law School:  Adventures with black clients‘, the author paints a truly dismal picture of the education, personal ethics and morals, and other shortcomings of his black clientele.  Here’s just one example.

I pride myself on doing good work for my clients, but I cannot remember even once being thanked or complimented by a black client. They do not observe even the most common courtesies. Also, with rare exceptions, blacks will never admit they made a mistake. When things go wrong, as they inevitably do, it is always someone else’s fault. The most common excuse blacks give is, “They are putting me through the changes.” I have yet to figure out exactly what that means.

Most people tell lies because they think a lie will help them. I have come to the conclusion that most of my clients cannot distinguish between a plausible lie and a wild fairy tale. They are convinced people will believe anything they say. Clients often tell me some fantastic story I cannot possibly defend in court. If I tell them what they are saying is unbelievable the usual reaction is anger and screaming. Typically, they will add, “I’m paying you. You have to believe what I say.”

There’s more at the link.

In the second article, ‘Confessions of a Public Defender‘, the author makes similar points.

As a young lawyer, I believed the official story that blacks are law abiding, intelligent, family-oriented people, but are so poor they must turn to crime to survive. Actual black behavior was a shock to me.

. . .

Although blacks are only a small percentage of our community, the courthouse is filled with them: the halls and gallery benches are overflowing with black defendants, families, and crime victims. Most whites with business in court arrive quietly, dress appropriately, and keep their heads down. They get in and get out–if they can–as fast as they can. For blacks, the courthouse is like a carnival. They all seem to know each other: hundreds and hundreds each day, gossiping, laughing loudly, waving, and crowding the halls.

. . .

Prosecutors are delighted when a black defendant takes the stand. It is like shooting fish in a barrel. However, the defense usually gets to cross-examine the black victim, who is likely to make just as bad an impression on the stand as the defendant. This is an invaluable gift to the defense, because jurors may not convict a defendant—even if they think he is guilty—if they dislike the victim even more than they dislike the defendant.

Again, more at the link.

The problem with both of these articles is that yes, they are largely true:  but they’re not the whole truth.  I’ve worked for years as a prison chaplain, both part-time and full-time, and have ministered as a pastor in a number of American inner-city areas.  I’m here to tell you, there’s a white ‘underclass’ that does precisely and exactly the same things.  Yes, as a proportion of their racial group, more blacks than whites commit crimes or are guilty of ‘underclass’-like behavior;  but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a lot of whites doing precisely the same things.  To refer to it as a ‘black problem’ is, in fact, a racist outlook, whether or not we want to admit that to ourselves.  (The owner of the American Renaissance Web site, Jared Taylor, argues this position in his book ‘Face To Face With Race‘, which I’ve read and recommend as a useful – albeit one-sided – perspective on the issue.  Unfortunately, I think he falls into this trap as well, and his views are tainted by his overtly partisan perspective . . . just as badly as many liberal and/or progressive views on race are tainted by opposing perspectives.)

(It’s precisely the same as religious bigotry and intolerance.  I’ve highlighted in a series of articles how the vitriol, hatred and distrust directed at Islam by many people is not, in fact, justified, because the actions of extremists cannot be used to condemn an entire religion and all its adherents.  If they could, we’d have to condemn all Christians because of the Northern Irish ‘troubles’, or the actions of the Westboro Baptist Church, or any of a number of modern wars of religion.  One-sided, partisan intolerance is as unacceptable in the field of religion as it is in racial issues.  It’s never about the group – it always comes down to the individual.)

Another thing.  We talk about ‘white trash‘, but if you were to refer to ‘black trash’ you’ll be convicted of racism in a heartbeat.  Why?  Aren’t the ‘trash’ the same?  Why is one expression ‘racist’ but the other not?

The real problem is that those who riot in Ferguson, or those who behave as the AmRen articles discuss, are part of an underclass that’s been more or less deliberately created.  We’ve discussed its genesis here on several occasions.  Its roots go back to the Moynihan Report of 1965 and President Johnson’s ‘War On Poverty‘ launched in 1964.  In particular, the Moynihan Report has proved prescient in its forecast of difficulties to come if the problems then evident in the black community were not addressed.  In a hard-hitting review 40 years after the Report’s publication (that I highly recommend you read in full – it’s an eye-opener), Kay Hymowitz demonstrated how it had been systematically discredited and sidelined by progressive and liberal pressure groups – but the problems it identified and predicted had all occurred as forecast.  It had been proven prophetically correct, even if politically incorrect.

The creation of a black underclass has been mirrored by the creation of a white underclass.  If you look at the situation in rural Kentucky, for example, there are awful parallels between its hopelessness and poverty and the same problems in inner-city black ghetto environments.  The surroundings may be different, but the fecklessness and the misery are all too similar.  That’s only one example.  There are many others I could cite, but won’t because of lack of space.  Suffice it to say that members of the ‘white underclass’ behave in much the same way as the members of the ‘black underclass’ cited in the AmRen articles – so much so that I find them indistinguishable from each other, except for the color of their skin.  (Yes, I’ve run into all too many people from both ‘underclasses’ in my time.)

I submit that the black community has got to take off its blinkers, and see reality for what it is.  They’ve got to stop blaming every problem on ‘racism’ in one form or another.  I’ve had black people call me ‘racist’ because I used an expression like “That’s stupid!”  No, it’s not racist to call someone or some action stupid.  Stupidity has nothing to do with race, but everything to do with behavior and/or thought patterns.  Get over it!

Black people also need to start listening to the wise men within their own ranks.  Far too many of them are dismissed as ‘Uncle Toms’ or denigrated as ‘white under the skin’ because they won’t toe the politically correct line.  (Speaking of that, I wonder whether the current frantic efforts to discredit Dr. Bill Cosby on the grounds of alleged ‘rapes’ have anything to do with his realistic approach to black community issues?  He’s not been convicted of any crime in a court of law, but an awful lot of ‘politically correct’ commentators, journalists and media are carrying on as if he’s indisputably guilty.  What happened to ‘assumption of innocence’?  And who’s behind this sudden flurry of accusations?  Was he about to speak out about the situation in Ferguson?  I think there’s more going on here than meets the eye.)

Let’s look at three perspectives from within the black community.  Note that all of them primarily address behavior and personal responsibility, things that the white underclass need to deal with just as much as their black counterparts.  First, here’s an excerpt from Bill Cosby’s famous ‘pound cake’ speech in 2004.

Next, Fredrick Wilson II provides a contemporary youthful perspective.

Wise words, IMHO!  Finally, Benjamin Watson‘s Facebook post on the events in Ferguson has ‘gone viral’ – with justification.  Here are some excerpts.

I’M FRUSTRATED, because pop culture, music and movies glorify these types of police citizen altercations and promote an invincible attitude that continues to get young men killed in real life, away from safety movie sets and music studios.

. . .

I’M EMBARRASSED because the looting, violent protests, and law breaking only confirm, and in the minds of many, validate, the stereotypes and thus the inferior treatment.

I’M SAD, because another young life was lost from his family, the racial divide has widened, a community is in shambles, accusations, insensitivity hurt and hatred are boiling over, and we may never know the truth about what happened that day.

. . .

I’M INTROSPECTIVE, because sometimes I want to take “our” side without looking at the facts in situations like these. Sometimes I feel like it’s us against them. Sometimes I’m just as prejudiced as people I point fingers at. And that’s not right. How can I look at white skin and make assumptions but not want assumptions made about me? That’s not right.

. . .

I’M ENCOURAGED, because ultimately the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem. SIN is the reason we rebel against authority. SIN is the reason we abuse our authority. SIN is the reason we are racist, prejudiced and lie to cover for our own. SIN is the reason we riot, loot and burn. BUT I’M ENCOURAGED because God has provided a solution for sin through the his son Jesus and with it, a transformed heart and mind. One that’s capable of looking past the outward and seeing what’s truly important in every human being. The cure for the Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner tragedies is not education or exposure. It’s the Gospel. So, finally, I’M ENCOURAGED because the Gospel gives mankind hope.

There’s more at the link.  I encourage you to click over there and read the whole thing – and, of course, as a retired pastor, I emphatically endorse Mr. Watson’s last paragraph above.  (Note how CNN silenced him when he tried to share that perspective on the air . . . )

I think that the three citations above point to a common thread, unstated but very real.  To label the Ferguson issue as primarily a ‘race’ problem is wrong.  It’s a class problem.  It’s a foundational problem in society, but race is incidental.  To solve it, we’re going to have to change the way our current ‘ghetto societies’ – of whatever race, and no matter whether they’re urban or rural – are structured.  Only by providing better and stronger foundations and structures within which people can grow into maturity can we address the real problems in our society.  Those foundations and structures have to be there for everyone, no matter what color their skin may be.



  1. In my admittedly limited experience and relying only on my extremely fallible memory, there seems to be one significant difference between "white" and "black" lower classes. I can't remember any major riots being started by "white" groups in the past 50 years in the US.

  2. What gets missed in all this – deliberately – is that the problems blacks suffer is a result of culture and has nothing whatsoever to do with skin pigmentation. The proof of that is our similar dysfunctional cultures, with different skin pigmentation, have exactly the same set of problems.

    There is no question black culture is dysfunctional, and not slightly dysfunctional; it's hugely dysfunctional. Much of the blame rests with liberals, of all colors, but mostly white, because liberal culture is also dysfunctional.

    Liberals have been criticized as having rose-colored glasses, etc. but examination reveals that what liberals believe (and want to achieve) is not reality based. Life on this planet does not work the way they so desperately wish it to work. I used to chalk this up to a mental disorder on the part of liberals, but I've seen too many people abandon liberalism for reality for that to be the case. Limbaugh has termed liberalism a too easy choice, where everything feels good, and easy self gratification may, indeed, be at the root of it.

    The rest of the blame rests with blacks themselves. "Taking the easy path" is highly addictive, no matter what one's skin pigmentation may be. Whites are just as susceptible to accepting handouts and welcoming blame shifting as blacks, and Hispanics have their own government-assisted ghettos, too.

    I'm less and less hopeful that our severely dysfunctional society can be repaired by what we term "normal" means. It certainly won't happen in my lifetime, nor probably in my children's lifetimes. That assumes, of course, that what we term "our society" has that much life left in it.

    Quite dispiriting at times. I wish I could see a solution from here, but I'm afraid Sysiphus may have become our national symbol.

  3. So the argument you make is that the criminality, stupidity, laziness, amorality, violence and low IQ of the average African is somehow MY fault as a white male? That this is really about "class struggle"? Well! Thank you very much for the Communist party PSA. Its good to know that "self hating whites" can fix everything with just a little more "class struggle". I'll bet you support the S.P.L.C.

  4. @Anonymous at 6:58 AM: If you think that, you clearly don't know me at all, and haven't read the article. I didn't (and do not) blame "white males" for anything, and I've spent a goodly part of my life fighting against the "class struggle" and those who propagate it. I suspect your own emotional "filters" are controlling your response.

  5. Sorry, Peter, I disagree.

    While the issue may have, as some portion, roots in "class", that isn't even the majority of the issue.

    "White Trash" kind of folks still bother to clean up after themselves much better than the poor "Black Trash". They are smart enough to bother to try to clean up and dress well for court appearances. They break the law in much lesser percentages that blacks of that culture. They respect (or at least fear) the police who are in authority over them, at least significantly more than the blacks in the same class. They don't succumb to the "Ghetto" culture that the blacks do. They don't blame someone else for their shortcomings (as much)either. They haven't been told that their issues in life are all the fault of another race that is "Holding them down".

    If you believe that race has no bearing on their issues is foolish. They DO believe that white cops are against them, much more than black cops. They DO believe that white man are at the base of their poverty. They DO believe that the crime and the drugs are a normal part of living in black areas, and that it is the fault of the white man, not that they make their neighborhood. They DO believe that the responsibility to clean up the mess they make is someone else's problem, not theirs. (But they won't help , ever, by cooperating with the police to try and clean up their neighborhoods, and they will NEVER, EVER give any information about criminals in their neighborhood to the police so that they can be removed from the neighborhood).

    Race DOES play a greater part of black judgement of people than whites. Sorry, but it is true. If a black cop had shot Mike Brown, then this would have been a few lines in the paper and nothing else. Because it was a white cop, it became a big thing. No one wants to acknowledge that Mike Brown was a thug, nor that he participated in making this happen. Stealing from a convenience store? So what? Walking down the middle of the street? Big deal. Fighting with the cop? Normal behavior, and acceptable.

    Being shot? IF a black cop had done it, then it wouldn't be a big thing…. part of the daily existence in those neighborhoods…But a white cop? Nw that is just plain wrong….Something must be done to stop white cops from shooting black men. Nevermind the circumstances. Black man-White Cop? Problem.

    THe issue, I believe, is welfare. THis has, for 5 generations, broken the black family. Women no longer need men to support them, and therefore they don't bother to have a father for their kids, just a sperm donor. It is becoming a greater issue in white and Hispanic families of that class as well, but not (currently) so bad as that of black families.
    If you deal with black youth today, you'll find that they are very undisciplined…. never having had a father shows in their behavior. blaming anyone else for their plight is cultural now, especially blaming whites. Not so in black families where a father is present when they grow up.

    It is based on race for THEM. They blame anyone but blacks. They judge differently for blacks than for whites. This IS a part of their culture in that class. They won't judge based on "content of character" but first and foremost "Upon the color of their skin"

  6. @ Mr. B: Let me tackle some of your points.

    "White Trash" kind of folks still bother to clean up after themselves much better than the poor "Black Trash".

    Not in most of the poorer suburbs and trailer parks I've visited as a pastor and chaplain. There's usually a lot of trash in the yards (not to mention the homes).

    They are smart enough to bother to try to clean up and dress well for court appearances.

    Again, not in my experience as a chaplain – the 'white trash' class seldom bother to even try. Of course, that's in the parts of the country where I've ministered. I concede things may be better in other areas.

    They break the law in much lesser percentages that blacks of that culture.

    On the contrary: I submit that the proportion of the 'white trash' class that breaks the law is probably pretty similar to that of inner-city black people (again, based on my experience as a prison chaplain).

    They don't blame someone else for their shortcomings (as much)either. They haven't been told that their issues in life are all the fault of another race that is "Holding them down".

    Err . . . no. I've heard many of them blame 'the man' or 'the system' for their lot in life, and blame 'the blacks' (euphemism) for taking all the money and social programs and leaving nothing for them.

    If you believe that race has no bearing on their issues is foolish.

    I don't believe that at all, and I don't think I said it. Race certainly is an issue, but IMHO it's a symptom of a deeper issue – that of economic and social 'class'. Of course, you're free to differ. I've advanced the evidence that makes me think that way.

    Race DOES play a greater part of black judgement of people than whites.

    Yes, it does. Again, I haven't denied that. Unfortunately, many black people see things only through race filters – but there are more than a few who don't. I've provided three such viewpoints in my article. I'd also point to people like Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Dr. Ben Carson, Allen West, etc. I don't think anyone would argue that the latter place greater emphasis on race as a factor in their judgments. Yes, one can argue that they're not typical, and I'll be forced to agree with you; but they prove that one can't make a universal argument based on race.

    The issue, I believe, is welfare. THis has, for 5 generations, broken the black family.

    Absolutely. That's what I pointed out concerning the 'War on Poverty' and the Moynihan Report.

    It is based on race for THEM. They blame anyone but blacks. They judge differently for blacks than for whites. This IS a part of their culture in that class. They won't judge based on "content of character" but first and foremost "Upon the color of their skin".

    For many black people, this is true. For many white people, this is also true. For both races, the fact that it's present doesn't make it right. Our job (I submit) is not to give up, but to point out the fallacies involved and try to get people to see beyond their prejudices. If they don't, we'll never get anything done.

    One thing I've done with more than a few black friends who hold such opinions is to point to Caribbean and other black immigrants to the USA, many of whom have made successes of their lives. They didn't bother about discrimination; they worked hard and got ahead in spite of it. If a relatively large proportion of such immigrants can do it, why can't US blacks do the same? So far my friends haven't come up with a working hypothesis.

    Thanks for your comments. I hope my clarification helps.

  7. I live in rural Kentucky.

    While it is true that there is indeed a white underclass, when was the last time there was a riot here where neighborhoods and businesses were burned out? I'll give you a hint: 1968 in the black ghetto of Louisville, the state's largest city.

    Letcher county KY is the nations poorest county. (…or was the last time I looked it up.). Yep, they have a meth problem and a higher than average crime rate for the population size. They also have an extremely high unemployment rate. (How's that war-on-coal going for you?) Yet, even if you are black, you can walk nearly* anywhere in the county, unmolested. (*If you come upon someone's marijuana crop growing in the woods, regardless of your skin color, don't hang around!)

    Now, can you say the same thing for the black ghettos of Louisville, or Cincinnati – or Nashville? Just look at the easily available statistics of white-on-black verses black-on-white crime.

    Regardless of your opinions of class and crime in this nation, there *IS* a race problem. And IMO it has gotten worse, not better, under the Obama regime.

    The first step to solving the problem is to admit that there is a problem.

  8. Peter,

    I am one of your readers from "across the pond" who has read your blog for some time now as it provides a useful counterpoint to some of the UK's mainstream media but this is the first time I've commented on one of your posts.

    My own experience as a Police Constable in a large provincial town outside London as an ordinary "bobby",not in a squad or specialist team tells me your right.

    Race is quite literally only skin deep. I think what some of your other commentators mean when they talk about race being a significant factor is culture. You take in the values of the culture around you with your mother's milk.

    When all those around you have been lying, stealing and cheating since you were a baby then that is normal for you and it would take an individual of great strength to break away from it.

    What you said about the Caribbean culture struck a chord with me as my Town had a massive influx of Caribbean/ immigrants after the war and a group of harder working people with a strong moral centre you won't meet.

    The reason I mention it is because there is a massive disconnection going on between the older generation's family/church culture and the younger as the youth 'buy in' to the global hip-hip culture.

  9. Thomas Sowell's Black Rednecks is an interesting take on XXXX trash culture. His thesis is that much of what we see as "black culture" originated in the Scots/English Border Country with its long history of banditry and war. (There are clearly West African aspects to black culture in the US too, but Sowell's point was more about the dysfunctions this post is talking about.)

    I reread it a few years ago in conjunction with James Webb's Born Fighting. Webb says – and his own life demonstrates – that this is a culture that one must leave (basically to civilize oneself) to become a contributing member of the larger society. Sowell's point is similar.

    The problem is, the dysfunctional aspects of both cultures are now valorized monetized, though it's worse for dysfunctional black culture which has become an engine for urban political power.

  10. You might read some Theodore Dalrymple, AKA Anthony Daniels. His essays about his practice as a psychiatrist in the NHS in the UK and his book Life at the Bottom support your thesis about the behavior of the white underclass. There is more than enough dysfunction between and among the races without looking to assess who is most dysfunctional. Our efforts should focus on developing strategies to turn things around. Like turning a carrier it will not be done quickly. If the USA is to survive, it must be done.

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