FERGUSON AND US/AU
The story of the explosive racial divide of Ferguson, Missouri, (exposed last week by the shooting death of an unarmed African-American teenager by a white policeman) has become the headline of the world. For all of our nation’s rhetoric about the liberty and freedom of democracy and the American dream and the pursuit of happiness and equal rights for all citizens, we have become an enigma to the editorial talking heads of the international press. I.e., in their eyes, what we preach we don’t practice. The economic blogging website Zero Hedge carried a piece this week: “Why So Much Anger In Ferguson? 10 Facts About The Massive Economic Gap Between White & Black America.” It opens with, “When people feel like they don’t have anything else to lose, they are likely to do just about anything.” And it concludes with, “I wish that I could be more optimistic about the future of this country. I wish that I could believe that we won’t see a tremendous amount of chaos in the streets of America in the years ahead.” And in between those lines the blogger lists “10 startling facts” about the economic racial divide in this nation: (1) for decades “the unemployment rate for black Americans has consistently been more than twice as high as . . . for white Americans” (July 2014—11.4% v 5.3%); (2) African Americans also have an “underemployment rate” twice as high as white workers (20.5% v 11.8%); (3) a 2012 study reported that “the average white household has 22 times as much wealth as the average black household”; (4) African-American households, 13% of the population, “receive more than 26% of the food stamp benefits”; (5) high school graduation rates reflect the racial divide (82% for white students, 63.5% for black students); (6) Pew Research reports that the “income gap” between the two races “has continued to grow ever since the late 1960s” (the difference in media household incomes growing from around $19,000 to “roughly $27,000” in 2011 [measured in 2012 dollars]); (7) in this nation 12% of white children live in “areas of concentrated poverty” v 45% of African-American children; (8) the percentage of children living in single parent homes is 19.9% for white children, 52.1% for black children; (9) since 1960 the decline of the percentage of adults getting married has been from 74% to 55% for whites and from 61% to 31% for blacks; and (10) “the incarceration rate for black men is more than six times higher than it is for white men.” (http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-08-19/why-so-much-anger-ferguson-10-facts-about-massive-economic-gap-between-white-black-a) How does the church of Christ live with disparities like this? When Jesus declared that “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39) is the second half of “no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:31), what was He trying to tell us? When Desire of Ages pronounces that—“[in the final judgment] their [our] eternal destiny will be determined by what they [we] have done or have neglected to do for Him [Christ] in the person of the poor and the suffering” (637)—what does that tell us about our responsibility in Ferguson or America? Or how about Benton Harbor, twelve miles up the road from us? What difference will the racially diverse student body of Andrews University make this new school year? How will we respond to this “massive economic gap”? What would Jesus do if He were a student or a faculty member on this campus? Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?