“WHY WE RIOT IS THE WRONG QUESTION”
When riots and looting break out along with the general out-of-control behavior occurring in Ferguson Missouri right now most people ask the obvious question, “Why? Why are people doing this?” That is the wrong question. The correct question should not be “why?” but “where?” That’s because riotous behavior is startlingly consistent and, in America, occurs in but one place.
The flash points that cause riots like the one we’re seeing in St. Louis County right now are singular events in time like the shooting of Michael Brown, the beating of Rodney King or the infrastructure decimation of post-Katrina New Orleans. However the festering of an environment conducive to producing individuals capable of such behavior takes years, decades, sometimes generations.
There is an economic link between riotous behavior and economic depression (as expressed in statistics such as poverty levels, unemployment, home foreclosures, etc.) Economically-depressed areas are basically the exclusive homes to riots. Ferguson Missouri is poor. Blacks in St. Louis County are, for the most part, poor. St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist David Nicklaus recently penned the following, “The unemployment and poverty rates for blacks in St. Louis County are consistently higher than those rates for white residents. Only one time between 2007 and 2012 has the poverty rate for blacks been less than three times that of whites, according to Census data. The unemployment rate is two-to-three times higher, and, as of 2012, had grown worse while it grew better for whites.”
Clearly Obamanomics and the policies of a President who was and is so overwhelmingly supported by blacks have not worked out for residents of St. Louis County. According to the US Census Bureau data as of 2012 “47 percent of the metro area’s African-American men between the ages of 16 and 24 are unemployed. The comparable figure for young white men is 16 percent.” Forty seven percent!
Ferguson itself is about two-thirds black, since 2010 the total unemployment rate (all ethnicities inclusive) has exceeded the national average and the number of residents living at or beneath the poverty line has doubled over the past decade. According to Professor Clarissa Rile Hayward of Washington University in St. Louis Ferguson is a town where the population of the poor is not only large but also highly concentrated. “A decade ago, none of the neighborhoods there had poverty rates above 16%,” says Elizabeth Kneebone, a fellow at the Brookings Institution who has written extensively on the rapid growth of poverty in America. Now every neighborhood but one in the town has a poverty rate over 20%, the point at which typical social ills associated with poverty like poor health outcomes, high crime rates and failing schools start to appear.
Ferguson is microcosmic of all of St. Louis County. It’s yet another of the United States’ urban areas that has a disproportionately high number of ethnic-minority residents, votes almost exclusively for liberal Democrat representation and has had nothing but Democrat leadership for decades.
Taking the concept of an economic relationship between the poor and riotous behavior a step further; there is direct link between economic disadvantage and property ownership. You don’t see riots taking place in neighborhoods where people OWN their dwelling places. The single greatest propellant of a nation/society towards a thriving middle-class and growing upper-classes and the inherent stabilities that come therewith is the right and ability to purchase dirt and build upon it.
When and where home-ownership levels are low you find virtually the only places rioting taking place. Where you have heavy concentrations of renters (or people living in subsidized housing; i.e., rent is being paid just not by dwelling occupants) is where you see people in the streets looting.
Every year, often times every month, young white men are gunned down or in other ways killed by young black men in predominantly white, middle/upper-middle class communities across this nation. Yet you do not see those communities taking to the streets, burning one another’s property, flipping over cars, throwing bricks thru windows and demonstrating riotous behavior. Why? Is it because whites are somehow immune to the “riot gene?” No. People are people. The answer clearly isn’t found in the “why” of rioting as both of these “why’s” are the same – “One of our own was gunned down by one of their own.” The answer isn’t in the “why” it is in the “where.”
People in middle- and upper-class neighborhoods are of in economic strata which allows them to own their property. Whether it be a house, car, motorcycle, business, sofa, stereo, 3-piece suit, pool cue or toaster – with ownership comes pride. People respect what they have labored for. Its the same reason you don’t wash a rental car – that’s not yours. You don’t care. But you do take time to wash and keep up your own car. Why? When you’re one of 250 renters in a building there is no sense of ownership – that’s not yours. In fact often times a mentality sets in that says, “The rich person who does own this dump is probably a part of the reason we’re in this predicament in the first place! Let’s burn something!”
More important than black, more important than white, more important than racist cops, more important than all of those things is economic health. Provide people with income and property ownership and behavioral patterns alter. There are no riots in Lake Forrest Illinois, Bel Air California, Westchester County New York or [name the upper class part of] Any City USA. The whites that live there do not riot nor do the blacks. Neither has the “riot gene.” That’s no coincidence.