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Does Race Matter? Ferguson, Missouri Re-Elects a White Mayor

April 11, 2017
Plain English Version

Ferguson mayor James Knowles III, center, celebrates his election victory on Tuesday, April 4, 2017. St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP David Carson

Ferguson is where the “Black Lives Matter” campaign began. A police officer killed a young unarmed black man in Ferguson. Facts about the case differ. The District Attorney did not charge the police officer.

Other incidents followed. The incidents Included the death of a black man in Baltimore. He was in police custody. Riots took place. The police went to trial. The verdict was not guilty.

Political power is often thought to be the answer to racism. Elected officials are one road to the end of racism. Has it worked?

President Obama was a big test. He is bi-racial. He calls himself a black man. Many thought his election was the end of big-time racism. They thought the U.S. was going to be “post-racial.”

Events changed that view. Race awareness now is high.

Eyes were on the Ferguson election for mayor. Ferguson is a majority black city. About seven out of ten residents are black. In the election, last week, the white male incumbent beat the black female candidate. The winner is a Republican.

What happened? Of course, race was not the only issue. Observers say taxes and other civic issues made a difference. Some voters may have thought a black mayor would make the city a less attractive place to live. It would be a 'black' town.

Ella Jones, a councilwoman in Ferguson, failed in her run for mayor. Credit Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

Turnout was a big factor. Some say Trump voters used their new sense of power to vote for the white candidate. But the total turnout was less than a council election two years ago.

Observers looked for other reasons. The culture of blacks may lead to a sense that having blacks in power will not make a difference. They point to Obama as an example. This leads some to conclude that racism is an entrenched part of the system.

The defeated black woman candidate was not happy. She said, "You cannot complain about a system that you are unwilling to the work to change." The political class agrees.

The winning white incumbent mayor spoke. He said voters agreed that big changes have taken place in Ferguson. He says that blacks have made a big difference in how the city is moving ahead. And the changes are for the better.

Some black advocates are looking elsewhere. They are saying it is not about political power. They say political power will always work against the interests of black Americans.

Source: The New York Times April 5, 2017

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