Ferguson in Context

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Demonstrators protest the killing of teenager Michael Brown on August 12, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. (Scott Olson/Getty)

Ryan Reilly, Huffington Post justice reporter, reports from Ferguson (where he was arrested last Wednesday) on the latest street protests and police response. Then, Peniel Joseph, professor of history and founding director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at Tufts University, and author of Dark Days, Bright Nights: From Black Power to Barack Obama and Stokely: A Life, discusses the parallels between protests in Ferguson and other demonstrations throughout history -- including ones from the height of the Civil Rights movement, and what he describes as the "generational divide" in leadership between past and present.


Peniel Joseph and Ryan Reilly

Comments [48]

CAIR keynote speaker to be Sharpton-

"MSNBC host Rev. Al Sharpton has been scheduled to keynote the 20th annual Council on American-Islamic Relations fundraising banquet, scheduled for September 27th in the Washington, D.C., area."

LOL, we know he's a Jew hater lest he's more honest about it than Obama.

Aug. 19 2014 08:49 PM
Jay from Denver

I agree with Cat's comments. I lived in St. Louis for several years in the early 90s (the first real city I ever lived in) and I can attest to how divided the city is. When I first moved there I transferred to a job in Florissant (N of Ferguson, also very African American) while I lived in a modest 1BR house in Frontenac (a nice suburb west of the city). So on a nearly daily basis I traversed the geographical, cultural and economic divide. The racial tension there was palpable, especially in the downtown/north county areas where blacks and whites both frequent. Of course the early 90s were especially terrible for violent crime in STL. It seemed like someone was murdered almost every night, and not all in bad neighborhoods.

And the guest characterized Ferguson as a "small town" when comparing these protests to ones in bigger coastal cities. STL may not be NYC or LA but Ferguson is nestled well within the general St. Louis urban area (population 2 million+). This is not about Ferguson, it's about St. Louis and the cultural and economic disparities there. I also lived in Kansas City and it was only marginally better, still very divided with crime nearly as bad (I wouldn't be surprised if some of this ill-will spills over there somehow). I'm now in Denver and it has it's racial difficulties too like most cities, but I will say moving here was a breath of fresh air. I was starting to think all cities had this uncomfortable and even violent racial tension.

Aug. 19 2014 05:49 PM

The older caller, originally from Chicago, with his grounding in genuine historical perspective, whose critical comments Anna Sale immediately tried to step on, was a refreshing and desperately needed voice of reason.

What an improvement from the “expert” you have chosen to feature, Peniel Joseph, whose self-serving misrepresentations of the historical record, pretending that black culture is not the crucial determinant of the terrible life situation of so many black Americans, does great harm to black Americans, inveigling them to see themselves as emasculated victims.

WNYC’s rubber-stamping endorsement of Mr Joseph’s views is unacceptable. Why not challenge his demonization of Pat Moynihan with details of what he actually said? Why not challenge his central claim (that outside factors rather that black culture are the crux) by having him explain the contrasting successes of East Asian immigrants whose family culture has enabled them to surmount not just crushing poverty but having to deal with culture shock and a foreign language?

What other than the difference in the culture of their families accounts for the enormous disparity in black and Asian enrollments at NYC’s best high schools (e.g. Stuyvesant, where the 2013 student body racial breakdown was the student body was 72.31% Asian and 21.44% Caucasian, 1.03% African American and 2.34% Hispanic)?

Please have some segments that provide analyses helpful to the black community rather than helping academics whose perspective hurts the community.

Aug. 19 2014 12:07 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

Store video of Michael Brown roughing up a worker.

Aug. 19 2014 11:51 AM

@MartinChuzzlewit -

We were told by Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow, etc that Ron Johnson was going to calm things down. How has that worked out?

Aug. 19 2014 11:46 AM

Is Al Sharpton on the scene?

If not, send old Al in .... he'll calm things down, LOL.

If not, he can at least incite the crowd to burn down a few Jewish stores.

Aug. 19 2014 11:35 AM
Colin from Williamsburg, Brooklyn

@john from office, the difference between the homicides of the two African immigrant cabdrivers and the homicides of Michael Brown and Eric Garner is that the former were killed as a result of criminal activity by non government actors and the latter two were killed by agents of the "state". Agents that were sworn to protect them and were paid by them and their families.

Besides I don't see O'Reilly and Hannity get up in arms and run protests when white folk kill white folk! Maybe they should stage marches in front of crystal meth labs.

Aug. 19 2014 11:32 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

I fully agree that fathers WERE the answer, and we are gone for the most part. But fathers aren't coming back. The answer will be to produce children in factories and raised by corporations or the state, or some combination.

Aug. 19 2014 11:24 AM

This is going to sound harsh but in order to get to the heart of the problem, and actually solve it, we have to be brutally honest. Society has to change but households have to change as well.

The last caller was 100% correct that is part of the problem, not only Fathers but Mothers as well. The "Strong Black Woman" that held it all together, seems to have been replaced with Video Vixens, who are more interested in Gucci bags and using their children as a paycheck rather than raising them with pride in themselves.

It's proven that children have a greater chance of success no matter what color, creed or geography they are raised in if their parents instill an Internal Locus of Control as opposed to an External Locus of Control, if you look at the Jews who have been treated abominably by the world but have very strong families and believe they are the "Chosen People", not only have they recovered from the Holocaust but they are arguably the most powerful and influential group in the world.

I wish the Black Community would get rid of Al Sharpton, Kanye West and any other hate monger that have made millions and millions of dollars by perpetuating this idea of victimhood, I know several Black People that are very proud of their culture, they had a very happy childhood and adulthood, they have fulfilled their dreams and are raising beautiful children, they were raised that the "World is the Oyster" the color of their skin never stopped them because it was a non-issue.

"All You Need to Achieve is to Believe"

Aug. 19 2014 11:22 AM
Anonymous from Park Slope


Aug. 19 2014 11:17 AM

If Darren Wilson is charged and later convicted of murder so be it.

The protesters have had plenty of time to make their point. How many more days do they require to continue making the same point over and over again?

Aug. 19 2014 10:54 AM

@Amy from Manhattan

"Our leader is Michael Brown" - A true leader would not carry out a theft on the final day of his life. The continuing effort to beatify Michael Brown is despicable and reprehensible. Thanks to the magic of video the public knows that Michael Brown was not some salt of the earth, gentle giant teddy bear. He was a thief. It would be a good thing if the protesters in Ferguson could overcome their delusions and stop seeing Michael Brown as Jesus Christ.

Aug. 19 2014 10:45 AM
Anonymous from Park Slope, Brooklyn

@HILTs - Patience, you will have your token white guy with tie attached firmly in place, back in office lying to your face once again very soon and then you and the other two faced bigots John & Martin who choose to disrespect the office you so worship so dearly, by disrespecting the current President of These United States can be content.

HOWEVER at the moment you are distracting from the issue at hand, the need to bring a murderer to justice, just because you are poor or live in a poor community does not mean you deserve to be gunned down in the street like a rabid dog, by a paid assassin.

Aug. 19 2014 10:38 AM
Carol from NJ

I lived in Newark in 1968. To this white observer the only thing that appears to have changed is that the police now have more firepower.

Aug. 19 2014 10:38 AM

Peniel Joseph - what a great perspective on all this! Thank you!

Aug. 19 2014 10:36 AM

You're accepted!

Aug. 19 2014 10:36 AM

It is the government that's taking away fathers in black communities.
The cops, the in-justice system is putting them in jail!

Aug. 19 2014 10:35 AM
USCDADNYC from Queens NY

For the caller (John from Crown Heights): There is a NYC Ordinance prohibiting "Riding on the Sidewalks" by cyclists above the age of 14.

Aug. 19 2014 10:35 AM

Caller meh

Aug. 19 2014 10:34 AM

Isn't it time for Obama to have a "beer summit" at the White House, of all places, as he did with the previous racial " misunderstanding" involving Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and of course, a white police officer ?

Can the wisdom of that leadership example be applied here....

Aug. 19 2014 10:32 AM
Amy from Manhattan

We've heard the proportions of the black & white population of Ferguson & of the city's police force. I'm wondering about the proportion of police to the general population. Is it typical of cities of this size? Is it considered high or low?

Aug. 19 2014 10:31 AM
CR from Manhattan

Peneil -

Go to youtube and check out some footage of the LA riots in 92. I was there and can tell you that the white cops in Hollywood - my neighborhood - and the white soldiers that were brought in by the white governor on the 3rd day of the riots - were absolutely treating the white people the exact same way as the black people. They were driving tanks (real ones... from the ARMY) holding machine guns on us - we had 4 soldiers on every corner in my neighborhood. To say that the police will treat black people differently than white people is completely irresponsible.

Aug. 19 2014 10:30 AM
HMI from Park Slope

Crown Heights:
NYC law allows kids under 12 on bikes on sidewalk. So, if the kids are 14-15 and riding on sidewalks, they are subject to police action. Right at the moment, the cops are on a 2-week crackdown on bike riders. And FWIW, last summer I saw a white guy stopped for riding on the sidewalk on Union St. @ 6th Ave.

Aug. 19 2014 10:29 AM

OK you're losing me here man

Aug. 19 2014 10:29 AM

Watch the documentary "The House I live In" for context, and read the recent Time article by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar about what Ferguson actually means to white as well as black people. We live in a segregated society, face it people. If you're white, before you can judge, ask yourself when was the last time you were in a black community, and I don't mean taking a car or a bus through it, I mean visiting it. When was the last time you saw a SWAT team coming out of a residential building in your neighborhood? I had the privilege of working in black communities for many years, and have black family members, so I have witnessed the reality. You can kid yourself this society is fair and there is equal access, but the truth is very very different.

Aug. 19 2014 10:28 AM

@MartinChuzzlewit and @john from office

Obama is an efete, clueless empty suit who doesn't even have the common sense to wear a necktie when addressing the public from the White House. At least he wasn't wearing a golf shirt. His latest comments were a whole lot of nothing. He should just go back to the golf course and get in as many rounds as possible before his vacation ends.

Aug. 19 2014 10:27 AM

CR FROM MANHATTAN, your comment reflects the liability of Dr. King's movement; the failure to understand the effects of race terror, the dearth of analysis...To his credit, he was attempting to address that inadequacy, right before he was mowed down...

And, Peniel, black leadership is lacking on national AND local levels. Because folk would rather write books and be regulars on radio talk shows and thereby seek their individual validation in this white supremacist system instead of invest their skills more directly in the community...

Aug. 19 2014 10:26 AM
john from office

If you read Fuva well, she makes some very good points on these pages. Not a token mouth piece. I respect that.

Aug. 19 2014 10:25 AM
Anonymous from Park Slope, Brooklyn

Once again, Ferguson is the "full blown disease" because the symptoms were ignored. It is a scene that is destined to be repeated. Maybe next time in the trailer park?

Aug. 19 2014 10:23 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Given the context we heard at the beginning of this segment, I hope anyone at the Ferguson protests who says, "Our leader is Michael Brown" will remember that Mr. Brown was about to go to college.

Aug. 19 2014 10:22 AM

[[We're removed and edited a few comments for violating the WNYC posting policy. Please remember to keep your posts civil and productive to the conversation taking place on the air.

-BL Moderator-]]

Aug. 19 2014 10:21 AM
Cat from Brooklyn

I am from St. Louis. St. Louis is one of THE MOST racially divided city in this country. Without being a historian, I can tell you as a former citizen this is the case. Simple as that. Not enough people are talking about this fact! It is really, really frustrating because the media is highlighting violence but barely discussing WHY!!!! Come on media, get with it. Seriously. I am just finding myself avoiding the media because of the lack of full coverage of questioning. Get with it. Contact people who are from there who can be honest with themselves and tell you why this is happening. It was waiting for years and years to explode. The rich white live in the suburbs west of the city. The blacks live in the city or north county- as you're seeing. The city has black areas and white areas. There are decrepit old houses and buildings in the black part of the city that are literally boarded up. Go to Ladue and see the rich white folk living in luxury and then go east on Delmar and see it yourself how the blacks live. This is not Birmingham in the 60s! It is St. Louis in 2014!! and the media is NOT spotlighting enough of the people there and what is REALLY going on in that city. Interview the white and see and hear how they really live. And that will help you see the context in this city. It is two polar worlds and it is what is fueling this silently....

Aug. 19 2014 10:16 AM

"oppressed" "ignored" in Obama's America ?????

Oh, this is too precious.

Aug. 19 2014 10:14 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Some takeaways here:
-- In the hood, The self-promotional will usually grab spotlights and front seats at the expense of the strategic thinkers. And so motion is lateral and not forward, and cycles continue.
-- We replicate half-measures, because we really wanted to believe that a few laws in a few years would remedy centuries of race brutality and terror. And we were wrong. And we are not mature enough to accept this and chart the proper course.

Aug. 19 2014 10:12 AM
CR from Manhattan

Anna -

Please do not call this part of a long battle against "racial injustice." Do NOT insult the real fight for civil rights, paid for with the blood of people like Martin Luther Kind and Medgar Evers, with this incident. It does not belong in the same category as the march on Birmingham, MLK or Rosa Parks.

At this stage, we have no way of knowing what, if anything this young man's race had to do with this shooting. We know two things - the cop was white, the young man was black.

It is an injustice to the legacy of Dr. King, who advocated non-violent civil disobedience to conflate him with the residents of Ferguson who are burning buildings down, shooting each other and looting. Dr. King would not have approved. He lived in a time when young black men were regularly lynched by authorities and racist white citizens and he still managed to advocate non-violence.

Aug. 19 2014 10:10 AM

The protesters in Ferguson have been given more than enough time to vent. Politicians in Ferguson and Gov Nixon need to reassert their authority and bring these demonstrations to an end. We can not allow our cities to be held hostage indefinitely by activists who are seeking to intimidate prosecutors to obey their demands instead of conducting an honest, fair, and thorough investigation.

Aug. 19 2014 10:08 AM
Anonymous from Park Slope, Brooklyn

JOHN FROM THE OFFICE - Why don't you quiet down, go away and stop immersing yourself so deeply in the situation. You are not OF the Black Community, you have nothing positive to say, you harbor resentment, FEAR and animosity towards Black People...this is not your issue. STOP talking/texting and listen to the people with real input. Seriously go back into your dark dank hole. Your comments are NOT accurate nor effective.

Aug. 19 2014 10:08 AM
john from office

I love how this all becomes about the media and reports. Not the police and protesters.

Hero reporters!!

Aug. 19 2014 10:07 AM

This is a human rights issue and a police overreach issue. The violation of 1st amendment rights is the big issue.

Aug. 19 2014 10:05 AM
john from office

Two cabbies, both African immigrants, were killed by 4 African American goons, shot in the head over the weekend for their cars and money. I guess I missed the outrage in the community and the protests.

Al Sharpton did not appear, not enough $$ there.

Aug. 19 2014 09:49 AM
CR from Manhattan

Please discuss crime statistics in Ferguson, MO. What kind of a community is it based on data, i.e. no more candy-coated "a place where families come together and go to church on Sunday..." Please deliver some facts. How many illegal gun confiscations last year, how many reported assaults, robberies etc. How many arrests vs reported crimes. How many incidents where police fired shots, where police were assaulted. A little color on what the police face every day might give us some perspective.

Aug. 19 2014 09:47 AM
john from office

Mark you are just another racist!!, how dare you point out the obvious!!

3 Black men were killed in Harlem over the weekend, where is the outrage??

Aug. 19 2014 09:42 AM

One thing I would like to see discussed is why is police violence the only thing that will set off riots in the black community? People's house could get foreclosed, local school declared "failing" and shut down, relatives sent to prison forever over some "three strikes" type law, and on and on, no one cares. However, if a cop is perceived to be excessively violent then all hell breaks loose even though those same neighborhoods are excessively violent everyday via homegrown thugs.

Aug. 19 2014 09:38 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Back To The Future! It's the '60s all over again! Will there be a new Beatles?

"Times may change, but people don't."

Aug. 19 2014 09:13 AM

Liberal Historian Fred Siegel on perpetual Black victimhood and its enablers-

“A Grotesque Pantomime of Repression and Redemption -
Activists and journalists are stuck in the racial resentments of the 1960s.”

“The virtue of disruption, academics and observers argue, is that it gives African-Americans a crisis with which to bargain. But after 50 years, what has this bargain achieved, except to cultivate a community that excels in resentment? It’s not just African-Americans who are stuck in the sixties. Reporters are still seeking out the white racists, who are ultimately to blame for all racial problems.”

(That would include the smug liberal white boy radio hosts.)

Aug. 19 2014 08:28 AM

So, Obama is not just your usual incompetent foreign policy/leadership disaster, catapulted way above his pay grade by affirmative action and a pandering media of liberal white boy radio hosts ……… he is also a race baiter who fans inflammatory divisiveness and sits back and watches his country descend into balkanized tribalism. Perversely, he actually LIKES it as vindication as to why we “need” him to keep the peace. (“Told you so, folks”)

Can this guy get any worse?

Aug. 19 2014 07:54 AM
john from office.

I guess the suits and hats from the 60's are no longer in style. I recall the respectable civil rights protests where protesters wore suits and dresses. I guess the hip hop generation prefers droopy drawers and bandanas.

Trust me it means alot and says alot. A degrading of African American Culture.

Aug. 19 2014 07:42 AM
john from office

Notes from the news:

1) Mr. Brown was a thug, involved in a strong arm robbery before he is shot.

most national news does not carry the footage of, a very large and in charge, Mr. Brown manhandling a store clerk. Guess he need the cigars for his start of "college". He seems to have forgotten to pay, he liberated the cigars.

2) People interviewed say police "disrespected" them, as the fire bombs fly

3) Furgeson is 3/4 African American, but only 6 % of those African Americans bother to vote.

4) Mr. Jesse Jackson looks lost in his interviews, missing his jailed son, another victim of disrespect.

5) Majority of the people pf Furgeson are at the mercy of goons, the media and race baiters looking for money and power.

Folks get out and vote and participate in local elections, that works better then burning down your own home.

Aug. 19 2014 07:26 AM

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