We’ve been inundated with the events of Ferguson, MO. It’s gotten more attention than the earlier death of Trayvon Martin. For whatever reason, apparently Michael Brown’s death evoked more emotion than Martin’s. There were no riots that accompanied George Zimmerman’s “Not Guilty” verdict. But we’re more than making up for that, not only in Missouri but nationwide. There have been “riots” which in some cases have turned violent and in all cases disruptive.
Both of these cases are portrayed in the media as murders resulting from racism. The facts are that both of the deceased were black males. In the Zimmerman case, his ethnicity was mixed. The police officer who killed Brown was white. In both cases, the behavior and events which led the deceased to their demise has been mostly glossed over by the press. The liberal media are exceptionally selective in what facts they choose to report – and then only after applying a fair amount of spin to their curve ball reporting.
In Martin’s case, as you may recall, the reason that he was out was that he was on his second or third suspension from school. I’ve forgotten the exact number. And he was out getting the ingredients for one of today’s more popular do-it-yourself drugs. Had he not been suspended and was home cracking the books instead of looking forward to cracking the pipe, he would never have been shot and we would never have heard his name.
In Brown’s case there appears to be ample evidence that he had just strong armed a store clerk and stolen some cigarillos so that he could roll a nice tight joint. He had a significant quantity of marijuana on him and his toxicology report indicated that he had the same substance in his system. He also ignored the orders of Officer Wilson and then assaulted him while he was in his police car. After that skirmish which Brown initiated, he subsequently again ignored the officer’s order to stop. Though there is conflicting testimony as to what happened, at least three witnesses confirmed completely Wilson’s statement that Brown charged him and four additional witnesses confirmed the portions of Wilson’s testimony that they saw. All of these witnesses were black – and if they were concerned about racist police officers and attitudes as has been alleged, it seems strange that they would be so supportive of the officer’s version of events – unless that is what they saw actually happen.
Facts can sometimes be inconvenient things. Particularly if they don’t blend with a narrative that is woven for self-serving reasons. No amount of evidence, testimony or anything else will convince those who in the Brown case decided long before the Grand Jury concluded its investigation that he was a victim of the ultimate in police brutality. If somehow a video recording of the incident suddenly surfaced, confirming Wilson’s testimony it would do little or nothing to change those peoples’ minds. We would suddenly start hearing that the video was manufactured or edited to exculpate the cop.
The liberal camp takes great pains to point out that only “deniers” reject the “facts” of “climate change.” They regard people who inveigh against their position as being ignorant. And, if the “facts” were seen by everyone as being that, I suggest that they would be correct. While that same theory ought to apply to these two cases as well, they do not. It is fair to wonder why that is.
Certainly a part of that can be attributed to emotion. We are all held hostage to our feelings and if we make decisions based solely on them we often not only misinterpret the evidence but draw faulty conclusions based on those rather than empirical evidence. The other part is ignorance. An uneducated person is far more likely to rely on his or her emotions than facts because we all are born with emotions but we have to acquire facts whether through schooling, good parenting or personal observation. And if everyone around is similarly poorly educated, it is likely that the reliance on emotion is further entrenched through the observations of how others around us act and conduct their lives. This is the fundamental problem with living in a ghetto – of whatever description.
If you live in a community where a high percentage of your fellow residents don’t work and are receiving a monthly stipend and other government benefits, it becomes socially acceptable, perhaps even desirable, to fit in with what everyone else considers a normal way to go through life. That is particularly true if you have limited skills and would at best be able to find a minimum wage job which offers little hope of advancement or upward social mobility. And that is further underscored if you realize that the government benefits you are currently receiving are greater in value than that job and require no effort to receive. The only American dream that you have to hold on to is that the benefits don’t go away and, in fact, increase.
There are fewer jobs that the undereducated can hope to hold. Technology and automation have left little opportunity for work for residents of our inner cities. Retail, fast food and cleaning are about the only venues that require unskilled labor. The ditch diggers of old have been replaced by hydraulic equipment and the family farm with its labor intensive requirements have been replaced with corporate farming and robotics. That there is little opportunity for those who do not attain at least a high school diploma can be seen in the extremely high unemployment rates among inner city black males – well more than twice the national average.
The riots in Ferguson are not about justice for Michael Brown or anyone else. They are expressions of frustration over the realization that the participants’ future is bleak. They are right in that perception. In an economy in which college graduates are living at home in large numbers for lack of jobs, what hope does the high school dropout have? Sadly, the answer is none. Unfortunately, those they blame for their plight are not the responsible parties for it.
With fifty years of trying to socially engineer poverty out of existence under our belt, we are in worse shape as a nation than when we initiated the “War on Poverty.” There is significantly more evidence to support that statement than there is to support the theory of global “Climate Change.” Yet those who enthusiastically support the idea that our planet is in grave environmental danger are exactly the people who ignore a half century’s evidence and double down on failed policies by further escalating them. Among those policies is increasing the minimum wage.
Adding further pressure to this equation is Obama’s recent granting five million illegal aliens the right to stay here, and more importantly, the right to work in the country legally. These are people who come from countries where there are no social welfare programs and where the residents will take any job, no matter how difficult or physically dangerous at whatever wage is offered. They have a work ethic which is lacking among those in our inner cities and find no job “beneath them.”
If there is any possibility of breaking the cycle of welfare dependency which is now generational in nature it is by getting those who are trapped in that system the opportunity to find work. It is far more important to encourage the unemployed in Ferguson and throughout the country to find that first job than it is what that job will pay. Sadly, the way our “welfare programs” are structured, finding employment translates into losing benefits. This obviously discourages recipients from seeking any form of legal employment. We perhaps could partially solve this by lowering the minimum wage for people who are in the marketplace for five years or less, during which time their welfare benefits would be unaffected by their earnings.
I remember receiving my first paycheck for a summer job. When I came home with it and opened the envelope with my family at dinner I clearly recall the sense of pride I had looking at that nearly fifty dollar check (after a deduction for Social Security) which covered one week’s worth of work. (The minimum wage was $1.25 per hour). And I took a great deal of satisfaction in the fact that the company had chosen me over the fifteen other kids who had applied for the job. Perhaps it was the naiveté of adolescence but it helped me feel as though I had some worth as a person – and that was acknowledged both by my employer in hiring me and then further validated by their paying me for my effort. That paycheck did great things for my self-esteem and it was with some sadness that I let go of it and deposited it in my savings account.
That is an experience that sadly I fear many kids in our inner cities will never share. And the higher we generically increase the minimum wage, however well intentioned, the more likely we are permanently to deny them the dignity of working for a living and perpetuate the cycle of hopelessness into which far too many in this country now have fallen – and is the root cause of why Ferguson happened in the first place – and why the reaction to Michael Brown’s death was completely predictable.
Ferguson is a symptom of a disease – one which has been decades in the making. Sadly, following our present path of providing “benefits” rather than real opportunity will only worsen the problem. And one day the right mixture of ingredients will combine to spark an explosion that will make what happened in Missouri look like a Sunday School picnic.
That day may not be far off in coming.