Ferguson voters can throw the bums out

Written By By LAURA WASHINGTON Posted: 09/26/2014, 07:18am

Throw the bums out.

That should be the mission of the people of Ferguson, Missouri, as they examine and mourn the police shooting of Michael Brown.

The noxious tear gas, righteous protests and heartbreaking loss of Michael will inevitably fade into history. There will be investigations, charges, trials to come as the St. Louis suburb seeks justice.

There is no shortage of anguished and heartfelt suggestions to remedy what happened in Ferguson. The U.S. Justice Department is contemplating a civil rights lawsuit, potentially against the Ferguson police department. The FBI is investigating. Others are calling for reforms in police hiring and training, ending racial profiling and stop-and-frisk, and abolishing police use of military style weapons and vehicles.

Still others, like Brown’s grandfather, Lesley McSpadden, demanded on MSNBC that President Barack Obama meet with him and make something happen.

Those are fine ideas but focused on outsiders, on trying to force the existing power structure to change.

The African-American community of Ferguson must take charge of its own destiny. All they have to do is vote.

Right now, Ferguson is a black city in the iron grip of white power.

Like many other American urban enclaves, white flight has taken a harsh toll. “This exodus has left a ring of mostly middle-class suburbs around an urban core plagued by entrenched poverty,” according to Jeff Smith, an assistant professor of urban policy at the New School in New York City, and a former Missouri state senator.

Later, blacks fled the inner city for suburbs like Ferguson, Smith wrote in a recent op-ed for the New York Times. Between 1990 and 2010, the black population of Ferguson shot up from 25 percent to 67 percent.

Yet the town “has a virtually all-white power structure,” Smith reports. “A white mayor; a school board with six white members and one Hispanic, which recently suspended a highly regarded young black superintendent who then resigned; a City Council with just one black member; and a 6 percent black police force.”

In a town that is 67 percent black.

That power structure, from the cop shop to City Hall, does not represent or fully comprehend the people it is sworn to serve.

If you are not in power, you don’t make policy. You can’t demand accountability. Real change is forged by real power.

The black people of Ferguson must organize, get their people registered and schooled in electoral politics. The churches and community voices must unite behind a focused voter registration and education effort.

They can own their government. Elect a mayor, city council members. Insist they hire police officers who can embrace young black men as their own rather than with fear.

Since the horrific shooting on Aug. 9, a lot of folks have come to Ferguson. They came to march, to demand answers and change. Some of those outsiders are well-meaning. Some are opportunists.

None of them can vote in Ferguson. The people of Ferguson can.

Michael Brown is to be buried Monday. The vote can be a potent memorial.

Email: LauraSWashington@aol.com

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