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Where does Ferguson go from here?

By Dan and Donna (Ferguson, MO residents)

One positive thing worth noting has taken place in riot-torn, media-savaged Ferguson. Thousands of signs have popped-up like weeds on the lawns of Ferguson homes; homes of blacks and whites alike, and they have spread to other metro communities, and even out of state. Signs that say “I (Heart) Ferguson”, or I Love Ferguson. And recently, the media took note of this phenomenon, but only due to a controversy over the rights to the phrase. Other than this one positive, we get the same stale rehash of angry protesters and their demands, criticism of city government and court policies, the militarization of police, continued charges of police overreaction and, excessive force, profiling of minorities, charges of local businesses “dissing” protesters, and disorderly, shouting-match meetings; in other words, anything to keep this story and the many unrelated side issues in the news. But in all this attention so far, I have yet to see comments or media interviews of white residents, especially white homeowners. No doubt there weren’t any. It seems as if coverage is always about minorities, and for the Post-Dispatch, only about minorities and the never-ending grievances/demands of some. An outsider might conclude that there are no whites in Ferguson; the take-away being that Ferguson is some kind of oppressed, poverty-stricken all-black “ghetto”; and that, obviously, is the image they want to leave with viewers and readers. But by equating black and poverty-stricken, as is their habit, and as was implied in the recent coverage here, they have plainly demonstrated their own brand of racism, by way of stereotype.

Poverty stricken indeed; people with smart phones, internet and cable, who enjoy air conditioning and have cars, are not poor, and most don’t know what real poverty is. And why is it that so many of those it refers to as poor so frequently become victims of the court system, as the media claims? Would it have anything to do with violating traffic laws and being issued citations, not paying fines and ignoring court dates resulting in severe penalties, then railing that laws and court policies are unfair and have disparate impact.

The result of excessive coverage of rioters, looters and protesters, inflamed by the vitriol of race agitators and politicians playing to the cameras, and the non-stop follow-up reporting, is that the image and reputation of this otherwise peaceful city, in the nascent stages of a renewal, has been severely tarnished, unfairly, undeservedly, and perhaps beyond repair. Thanks to the broadcast media, and the obsessive preoccupation by the Post-Dispatch, – when all of this has played out, Ferguson, and eventually the rest of North St. Louis County, will have all the appeal of a toxic waste dump for potential home buyers. But why should reporters and other critics and observers care whether what is said is fair and deserved, or if allegations, inferences, intimations, and the criticisms voiced by politicians and agitators have merit or truth? Indeed, reckless statements and inflammatory rhetoric repeated by media, affecting both people and communities, is quite easy for those with no skin in the game and nothing to lose, unlike the residents and businesses of Ferguson, so they say what they want, true or not; whatever keeps listeners and readers riveted, and the controversies alive.

Residents like us, and many others, have a great deal of skin in the game in lost property value because of the poor image Ferguson has, and how it is perceived as a place to buy a home. A little history is in order to give proper credit where it is due: first we should thank federal judge James Meredith who got the white-flight ball rolling many years ago with the forced merger of the highly rated, 95% white, Ferguson-Florissant R-2 school district with the heavily black Berkeley and the all-black Kinloch districts, followed by the busing of whites to predominantly black schools and the reverse, all to achieve “racial balance”. This merger and the subsequent migration pattern it helped establish, precipitated the district’s rapid decline, and it is now one of the lowest ranked in the metro area. Secondly, residents of Ferguson and north county should thank the federal housing bureaucrats in conjunction with local housing agencies who targeted north county for mass relocation/integration of low income city dwellers, many from the razed public housing projects, into high-density apartment complexes with subsidized rentals, and low interest, nothing-down home loans.This accelerated the exodus of whites, and soon Ferguson and north county communities were running radio ads touting their cities’ “affordable homes”, in efforts to attract new residents, and which, predictably, became ever more affordable as time passed. So, as planned, Ferguson and north county became very diverse racially, while South and West county communities, according to plan, were spared the privilege of experiencing diversity on a scale anything like up north.

The school district merger and the subsequent targeted mass relocation/integration pretty much mapped out the future of north county and its communities, while increasing the desirability and the property values of areas not similarly affected, and in no small part assured the continuance of the William/Lacy Clay father-son political dynasty in the 1st Cong. District. Perhaps the media and especially the Post-dispatch should refocus their tunnel vision from Ferguson to those South and West diversity-challenged areas and investigate why this continues to be. One may cite differences in housing values that would at first glance preclude diversity-sharing with those areas, but that is not a valid reason. Property values in north county also used to be very good, but property values in almost any area can be changed very quickly. A little federal meddling with subsidized home purchases and low-income rentals in a nice area of single family homes is all it takes to upset the real estate apple cart and the stability and the desirability of a community. Before long there will be a glut of ever more affordable homes on the market, just as there was and is in north county.

The I (heart) Ferguson signs represent a strong show of support for this city by its residents. It is their way of fighting back against unfair, untrue and premature allegations, and is quite a contrast with what the media has presented. The sign campaign is intended to tell the media, its audience and readers, that the vast majority of Ferguson residents are not at war with their city hall and police, but rather, love their city as a great place to live with its many amenities: its tree lined streets, fine homes and parks, great access, and for many, a short walk, to shopping and other services, its location between U.M.S.L., F.V.C.C. and Lindenwood’s branch campus, its proximity to the airport and the interstates, its bustling Farmer’s Market, the renaissance of the “old downtown” area with new restaurants and other businesses, its forward thinking and accessible Mayor, James Knowles, the new firehouse, police headquarters and rec center, and its police and fire departments who do their very best to serve and protect the good citizens of Ferguson, and much more.

If Ferguson is racially divided, discriminatory, or racially oppressive, for how long has this been?, and when did it start? surely there must have been prior complaints and charges, though I’ve heard none in 45 years. Where are they? Where is this racist history? And who are they that have practiced this racial animus toward minorities that has caused them to despise the police and others in authority here, and to even question the integrity of the Grand Jury and justice system process? Was it the Mayor?, the City Manager?, the Police Chief?, city council members? All of the above? Was it those stubborn, left-over white residents, now the real minority, who stayed here to enjoy this community and its amenities, even as racial demographics changed and so many others headed across the river to St.Charles County? No, it was none of these. Those who fomented this racial discord are the well known professional agitators and organizations who play the race card at every opportunity, and are now exploiting this tragic, controversial incident to advance agendas, even those unrelated to this incident. It also includes the Washington bureaucrats and their fellow travelers of the civil rights industry who spring into action as advocates of those claiming racial victimization, and as adversaries to undermine local authorities. Not the least of the contributors to this discord is an enabling-collaborative media which has provided all the on-air exposure and newsprint stories needed to amplify racial tensions. These agitator-troublemakers, carpetbaggers, politicians and media people, have nothing in common with the majority of Americans and have very little first-hand knowledge of this city or its leaders, our first responders, or the peaceful, law-abiding people of Ferguson. Most, if not all, do not live here; they are here to stir-the-racial cauldron, to foment racial hatred, create division, destroy property, and the reputation of this city. So far they have succeeded.

Ferguson is not and never was the racial hell-hole the media has portrayed it to be, nor was it a divided city, at least it wasn’t before now, far from it. it is a city where people of good will get along just fine, and have for many years; where haters, both black and white, are not welcome. Ferguson did not deserve to have its reputation trashed by racial activists, ratings-driven media, and all the rest of the outside trouble-makers, just so they could put on a late night reality show of people looting, shooting and burning – for the cameras. Nor did our police and city government deserve to be undermined by the posturing, pontificating politicians pandering to their voter bases. Instead of flapping their gums to inflame an already volatile situation, they should man-up, and pull a shift on the front lines to experience what the police have to deal with every day as they put their lives in danger to keep our streets safe. This goes double for the smug Post writers who, while touting diversity as our greatest strength, would never deign to live in Ferguson and celebrate diversity’s promised, though so far elusive, “joys”.

The strife in Ferguson was triggered by an isolated incident, a white on black shooting by a cop, allegedly unprovoked, the perfect cause for the race hustlers and a carnivorous media, (always looking for racial red meat), to leap into action. One wonders why they fail to give any attention whatsoever to incidents when the races are reversed, like recently in Salt Lake City, and why there is such scant coverage of the shootings of white cops, often by minorities, and more than a few in this metro area of recent memory. (Doesn’t fit the narrative, eh?) What followed this shooting is what happens when those looking for any excuse to break the law and raise hell are allowed to do just that, emboldened, if not encouraged by media presence, while authorities look on, prevented by their political bosses from using the force necessary, or intimidated from doing so, lest they be denounced by the media and politicians who have taken the politically expedient position with the other side. Police “stood-down”, and the man put in charge by our Governor marched with protestors as rioters looted businesses. The broadcast media and the Post-Dispatch had a field day, milked the story, and continues to do so, no doubt with visions of a Pulitzer Prize in mind.

There is nothing inherently evil about the city of Ferguson so as to warrant such strife, nor to deserve such negative exposure by media and smears by politicians, the itinerant “reverends” of social justice, and other race-agitators; quite the opposite. But now, the city of Ferguson is being made the goat, toward which all of this stirred-up hate and dissatisfaction is being directed, out of which many new demands will be made, and concessions required as retribution for this city’s alleged “sins”. Ferguson is said to be “broken”, so concessions and changes will be demanded to effect the “healing” they say is necessary. But this city is not broken or sick. “Broken” and “Healing” are weasel-words used to impute a collective malady, and collective guilt to the community, obligating everyone to get on-board to advance a laundry list of reforms that will supposedly heal our city, most of which will have nothing to do with the original incident. But after all, who can be against healing? Well, if Ferguson falls for that, to buy peace, it will never have peace, and we can kiss our city goodbye.

Those with axes to grind should name names, make specific charges, and back them up with solid, provable facts, if they have any, but they won’t because they can’t. This was not about Ferguson per se; Ferguson is not unique among communities, except perhaps having more than its share of self-identified victims of social injustice seeking special dispensation. The media should stop treating our city as if it is some kind of malevolent entity. This incident could have happened anywhere, but Ferguson, – now the focus and reference point for the shortcomings of all small communities, – will suffer for it, and the media, especially the Post-dispatch is having a never-ending feast at the expense of residents and businesses of Ferguson, and recently, all north county and its school districts.

The media, the politicians, and the governor’s super-troopers, have left the area, (except for some residual peace-keepers), and the first episode of the ugly street-theater reality show they starred in has concluded, except for coverage of sporadic disturbances. But this show is only on temporary hiatus. It will soon return, likely with even more vitriol and violence, and our Governor, lady Senator and lesser politicians will be in the thick of it hustling for favorable exposure, and of course, votes.

Now, governments, large corporations and do-gooder organizations, displaying their multicultural sensitivity and solidarity with protesters, while garnering positive publicity, are rushing in to help the supposed socially-economically oppressed people of Ferguson. This proves once again that if you raise enough hell, if you make enough threats, if you promise anarchy and make allusions to cities burning, people will beat a path to your door with goodies in hand, even if some amount only to symbolic or sympathetic offerings. One must ask: if there was such an obvious, desperate need, where, oh where, were these organizations before this happened? Meanwhile, as these supposed victims of social injustice are being helped, the peaceful, law abiding, residents, homeowners and small businesses, will reap the consequences of this insurrection through loss of patronage and lost home values, and will be left to twist in the wind with no recompense and little hope of ever recouping their losses: you know,the usual treatment for those who play by the rules and do not raise hell for every perceived wrong or injustice.

There are those here in Ferguson who have invested much in this community; they have built new and refurbished the old. They have started new businesses for residents and visitors to patronize and enjoy. They serve the community as builders, creators and entrepreneurs. Sadly, there are others who seem intent on defeating their efforts toward renewal, by causing problems that drive people, businesses and patrons away. They are abusers, spoilers, and as we have seen, destroyers, and most have no investment in this community. They expect authorities to accept and overlook their destructive actions and rude, uncivil behavior since it is done in the holy name of “Civil Disobedience”, which is nothing more than mob-action bullying using Saul Alinsky tactics to get their way. They seem to have a double standard about law enforcement, that there should be special rules just for them, and they should be given special indulgence, even a pass for unlawful behavior. And when the businesses they loot, burn and harass close their doors and move elsewhere, those that contributed to their demise will whine to media and government claiming they are under served, and make more demands. So, if media and troublemakers-agitators want to make Ferguson a ghetto, they need only keep doing what they do best, and they will soon have one. It is already well on its way to becoming like my old North St. Louis neighborhood, now a war-zone, which ceased to be a diverse community long ago, if you get my drift. There is an upside though for some: when the good people of Ferguson, both black and white, have had enough and decide to go elsewhere, there will be yet another glut of extremely low priced housing to buy on the cheap, no doubt with ever more government subsidies.

Whatever happens, one thing is sure; Ferguson will continue to be thought of in a negative light, unfairly, for a long time. So, where does Ferguson now go to get its reputation back? And as for justice: where do the businesses and the residents of Ferguson go to get justice for the destruction, the loss of assets, loss of business, and the even greater depression of property values?

It’s long overdue for the race-obsessed media and federal witch-hunters to go away, and to stop the continuous scrutiny of Ferguson and north county, (don’t hold your breath). It’s also time for those responsible for the losses of residents and businesses to be punished and to make restitution for what they have done, (fat chance of that), time for the agitators and politicians to shut their traps, (even less likely), stay the hell out of our town, and leave us alone. We will get along just fine without you.

Having lived here 45 years, I (heart) Ferguson. We welcome those who want to be good neighbors and a part of our city’s rebirth and future. Those who just want to hate and cause trouble, please move somewhere else; better yet, don’t move here to begin with.