The shooting of unarmed Ferguson Missouri teenager Michael Brown by Ferguson Missouri police officer Darren White brought national attention to sharp racial disparities present between a police force and another African American Community. An abundance of attention, typeface, and airtime was invested on the number of White vs. Black officers employed by the Ferguson police and the absence of Black city council and board of education members. The killing of Brown quickly became a catalyst to bring to light the local overabundance of police encounters Blacks experienced compared to Whites. Race is present in almost every context of the Michael Brown killing except the context that is the reason race is the issue in the first place - politics.
Politics is the reason for the skewed representation of Blacks in politically influenced government positions in Ferguson Missouri. The residents of Ferguson Missouri voted -or not- themselves into some of the predicaments that are haunting them. To be sure, not all of the citizens followed a specific plan at the polls, on the contrary many were unaware the polls were even opened.
Many dynamics discourage voter awareness and participation by citizens in Ferguson's underserved neighborhoods. These dynamics have the same impact on the citizen's political strength as a well-crafted voter suppression drive would.
There is a city charter that downsizes the magnitude of local elections combined with a disinterested attitude toward politics has resulted in anemic mid-term and local voter.
In 2013, just 11.7 percent of eligible voters actually cast a ballot in Ferguson.
Demographically 6 percent of eligible black voters cast a ballot in Ferguson's municipal elections, as compared to 17 percent of white voters.
The Ferguson City Charter stipulates, "The regular city election shall be held annually on the first Tuesday following the first Monday in April." These elections occur in odd-numbered years, a time when there is no state or national-level general election. Missouri, like the federal government, holds its gubernatorial and state legislative elections in even-numbered years. The local elections do not benefit from the big media and political pushes of its more high-profile siblings. This contributes to the low voter turnout rate in these elections.
Let's crunch some numbers.
- The Black population in Ferguson Missouri is 67.4%.
- The White population in Ferguson Missouri is 29.3%.
- Ferguson police officers are 94 percent white and 5.6 percent black.
- There are 50 White and 3 Black Ferguson police officers.
- Blacks made up 93% of Ferguson police vehicle stops in 2o13.
- The Mayor is White
- The police chief is White
- The school board is comprised of six whites and one Latino
The data reveals the result of low voter participation and a lack of Black political candidates. These are two dynamics that only the citizens of Ferguson can fix. The question is how?
First, the political savvy in the community is going to have to make a concerted effort to get more people aware of local politics. Turnout typically correlates with levels of education income, and age. People have to understand how politics dictated such an anemic representation of Blacks on the school board, city council, and police department. They need to understand how benign voting attitudes correlate to an inequality of resources. Voter drives are notorious for focusing on registering citizens followed by a big push to vote. Few drives insure that the new voters are educated on how the federal, state, and municipal political framework functions and compliment one another.
Ferguson voters need to put the wheels in motion to reschedule their municipal elections for November on even-numbered years. A move to even-numbered years would give local elections the benefit from the focus that the federal elections get. Rescheduling the elections would require an amendment to Ferguson's city charter by a voter initiated ballot. The city council or a petition representing 10% or more of the city's registered qualified voters can also initiate an amendment. Once a proposed amendment is submitted with the required signatures, the amendment would be submitted to voters at the next election held in the city not less than sixty days after its passage, or at a special election held as provided by the constitution and law of the state for a charter. The voters would have to follow through and vote the requested amendment into law.
This simple rescheduling measure would be a major contribution to the reshaping of the city's electoral composition. The political landscape would sprout politicians more closely resembling the voters and would share those voters' issues as a whole.
Lakresha Moore, a 34-year-old mother and student who lives in Ferguson, said she hopes the killing of Brown will provoke the city's black population to vote and run for public office.
"We're tired of being bullied," Moore said in an interview in Ferguson. "This whole system is ridiculous, and the only way we're going to change it is to vote."
An overwhelming number of uniformed voters still embrace a fallacy supported by the notion the election of the first Black president of The United States is the great equalizer for all underserved people. Sadly, the same folks mistakenly confused the office of the President with The Officer of Black Activist. They are still waiting for the "messiah" to end all racism and wipe out poverty. Little do they realize they are the reason the President has not been more effective on issues like Black poverty, immigration, and unemployment. They tied his hands by not returning to the polls in local and mid-term elections to put in place politicians that could relate to and deliver solutions to their issues. By not participating in the political process, they are in effect further oppressing themselves.
Their oblivious attitude to local politics perpetuates their own Michael Browns.
Not surprisingly, some Republicans in Missouri have taken an adverse position against changes to the current election system.
Missouri Republican Party executive director Matt Wills called voter registration drives initiated by Brown's killing "disgustingMissouri Republican Party executive director Matt Wills called voter registration drives initiated by Brown's killing "disgusting" and told Breitbart News the activists are "fanning the political flamesMissouri Republican Party executive director Matt Wills called voter registration drives initiated by Brown's killing "disgusting" and told Breitbart News the activists are "fanning the political flames."
Republicans naturally fear a fresh influx of highly charged focus Democrat voters could disrupt their agendas and local ideologies - and they are right.
Increased numbers of Ferguson's residents actively engaging the political franchise will enhance the quality of life for those residents. Residents should be encouraged to ignore any attempts to discourage their participation in electing the officials tasked with making laws and decisions they have to live with.
Case in point. Had more of Ferguson's citizens been involved in the political process before the killing of Michael Brown, there may very well have been no killing of Michael Brown. That is a hard pill to swallow but if you walk it back you walk right into anemic voting.
#FERGUSON, #ferguson, #justiceformikebrown,