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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Historian: Ferguson Exposes Need For New Leadership

Demonstrators protest the killing of teenager Michael Brown on August 12, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Brown was shot and killed by a police officer on Saturday in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. Ferguson has experienced two days of violent protests since the killing but, tonight's protest was peaceful. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Demonstrators protest the killing of teenager Michael Brown on August 12, 2014, in Ferguson, Missouri. Brown was shot and killed by a police officer on Saturday in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. Ferguson has experienced two days of violent protests since the killing but, tonight’s protest was peaceful. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Historian Peniel Joseph says the big difference between today and the heyday of the civil rights movement in the 1960s is that there are no unifying leaders, especially no leaders who can appeal to the young.

Joseph writes that it’s part of the confusion of our age — with an African-American president and first lady and attorney general, there is a ready narrative of America moving past racism. Joseph says that at the same time, there is persistent, institutional inequality, that the young people in Ferguson know from their own life.

Joseph told Here & Now’s Meghna Chakrabarti that with those competing realities, it’s hard to have the kinds of clear goals that united a lot of Americans to action in the civil rights era. He added that the need of the moment is a grassroots movement that can compel the president and lawmakers to act.

Recent Pieces By Peniel Joseph


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  • Rick

    Another NPR propaganda piece. All based on the premise that an innocent black man was wrongly shot by a white cop. The more we learn, the less that seems true.

    How could your guest say there wasn’t a riot? Looting, throwing grenades at police, throwing bricks off of bridges onto passing cars, setting fires… If that’s not rioting , then what is?

    • Lilly macdonald

      Civil war!

  • Nora Lyons

    why is President Obama always referred to as a black President when he is half white? doesn’t that kind of underscore the fact that no one seems to be able to view the world in a colorblind way, when he is the perfect example of a blended society?

    • Lilly macdonald

      Because of the one drop rule. Everything in America revolves around race. Not saying I agree, it’s just the reality of how things are here. In other countries mixed people are recognized as being mixed, but that wont be happening in the USA anytime soon.

  • Rick

    Responsible black people don’t need black “leaders” telling them what to do. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson both call themselves “reverends”. I’d like to know where their churches are? Where were they ordained? No one in the mainstream media every challenges them about this. Al Sharpton lost all credibility with the Tanana Brawley case. Why won’t NPR ever talk about that? He also has a history of antisemitism and homophobia.

    90% of blacks who get murdered are killed by other blacks. 90% of black babies are born out of wedlock. Maybe they should look within their own “community” to solve their problems before blaming all their problems on the evil white man.

  • Frog

    I think what’s needed is more African American entrepreneurship. Minorities can and have excelled at providing a services, opening a store, or building a better “mousetrap”. Businesses (no matter who owns them) that provide value will thrive. There are many examples of it…the most recent being Dr. Dre who just sold his “Beats” business to Apple for mult-billions.

  • Geheran1958

    Ferguson is no-where near the real challenges faced by the Black community: Black-on-black crime, fatherless children and High School graduation rates. Why is there such an unwillingness to vigorously address these issues? Could it be that Blacks are afraid of the reflections in the mirror: “We have see the enemy and they is us”

    • Lilly macdonald
      • Geheran1958

        Point taken. Absent from that YouTube B-on-B perspective videois that murderedBlack males murdered for over 50% of the homicides committed in the US while Blacks account for 13% of the population. And over 90% of those murders were perpetrated by Blacks. Fully 50% of Black males fail to graduate from H.S. 60% of Black births are out of wedlock and grow up in “fatherless” environments.

        • Lilly macdonald

          Yes those are the statistics, so what do they lead you to conclude? That black people just aren’t as good as white people?

          Imagine being a black person going to school with a teacher who sees these statistics and believes that they mean that something is wrong with black people. Year-after-year you have teachers like this, at a school that lacks resources (like Michael Brown’s school which lost it’s accreditation two years ago and only had two graduation gowns to split amongst its graduating class). It’s no wonder so many don’t graduate.

          Imagine being a black person walking on the street past a police officer who believes that these statistics mean that there is something wrong with black people. Do you think that the police officer is going to believe them when they say they aren’t doing anything wrong?

          Imagine being a black person trying to get a job from a boss that sees these statistics and believes that there is something wrong with black people.
          Do you think that they are going to give that black person a job?

          Imagine that you live in a country where a lot of people see these statistics and believe that they mean that there is something wrong with you. Imagine that you live in a country where many people think that the day the civil rights act was passed racism ended and that racist people started employing colored people the next day. That schools started accepting colored people the next day.
          All of the things that have benefitted black people only happened through laws, not from people changing their attitudes.
          Even today, many people say they aren’t racist, but will use statistics like these to form an opinion about a whole race of people with out even acknowledging what struggles they might be facing.

          • Geheran1958

            Lilly, your points are valid. My perspective is simply this: while Blacks have clearly endured horrific hardships, there are other examples of peoples who were oppressed – in some cases for several hundred years (including but not limited to Armenians, Irish, Jews – and somehow managed to overcome their negative experiences. While it is no doubt true that prejudice against Blacks as well as other minorities exists in the US, it is my humble belief that, generally spoken, the Black community has not been honest with itself about endemic conditions that exist within their midst that have little to do with discrimination and which receive too little pro-active attention from Black leadership. Despite large infusions of Federal and State programs (job training, child care, school lunch programs, food stamps, family welfare, special programs for single mothers, etc., the Black community has largely failed to break the cycle of those elements under their control that result in long-term dependency and continued frustration. If the Black community were to confront their demons honestly and break-free of the not uncommon “woe is me” mentality, this would go a long way toward gaining the respect and admiration of the remaking “doubting Thomases” in the white community.

          • Lilly macdonald

            Oh yes, the old “the only way to overcome racism is to prove how much better you are” Model Minority Myth.

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