The remembrance march held in Ferguson, Missouri on Sunday was supposed to be peaceful in nature. But of course that’s not how it ended.I must first ask, why was there a remembrance march for the one-year anniversary of the death of Michael Brown? Was the intention to mark how the community in Ferguson has turned the corner and made improvements to address the real issues underlying the problems in the community?
I have no time to play a politically correct game, so I will ask, why was there a protest march to remember a young black man who assaulted a store owner, robbed a store, assaulted a police officer and attempted to take away his weapon? I’m quite sure that question will draw the ire of a certain group of people more interested in being victims than resolving the issue at hand.
While there is no doubt deep emotion and grief surrounding the tragedy of Michael Brown, his death is but one small part of a much larger tragedy for the black community as a whole.
First, in the year that has passed since the original Ferguson incident, what has happened with the growth of minority owned, small businesses in the community? One of the key aspects of urban economic restoration has to do with entrepreneurial spirit and growth. The one-year protest should have brought this issue to light and sought out policy solutions, such as former Rep. Jack Kemp’s urban economic empowerment zones. How do we reinvigorate Ferguson with the capital necessary to rebuild businesses that the local population can see as a matter of pride? Sadly, when nightfall came, the violence came, too, and there was more looting of businesses in Ferguson. Consider the abysmal black teenager unemployment rate and you’ll understand why these young people are busy shooting each other, disrespecting the rule of law and law enforcement officers, and destroying businesses – where they should be working.
Second, if you want to have economic revitalization in the inner city, then we need to have better education opportunities. So where were the placards and signs asking for better schools, school choice, charter schools, and opportunities that come only by way of education? Not every kid needs to go to college, but all kids need to have a viable skill that enables them to be contributing and productive members of society. These skills need to be focused on the local economic and business needs, and ensure the next generation of workers are developed. This doesn’t mean just throwing out a $15 minimum wage which leads folks to believe frying French fries in a fast food restaurant is a career endeavor. That’s a political band aid over a sucking chest wound. Why is there no discussion about skills development and tradesmanship?In the year since the death of Michael Brown, how many job skills development centers have opened in Ferguson? Again, perhaps if the young folks in that city had to wake up early to get to a job or a workforce development center, they wouldn’t be out shooting at each other. Perhaps the 18-year old friend of Michael Brown, Tyrone Harris Jr., wouldn’t be sitting in a hospital recovering from gunshot wounds after firing on law enforcement officers with a stolen handgun.
And that brings me to the third question – what happened to black dads? I grew up in the inner city of Atlanta and my dad, Herman “Buck” West Sr., raised his first son, Herman West Jr., to seek out service to our nation as a Marine infantryman. Following the example set by Dad, who served as a Soldier in World War II, my older brother served in Vietnam. Upon return, he became an Atlanta police officer – one who inculcated into me the lesson of respect and regard for authority. There are calls for a “day of disobedience” in Ferguson, and how many dads are supporting this? Fifty years ago the two-parent black household was near 77 percent, today it is at 25 percent. Men are needed to raise young men and teach them the lessons of honor, character, and respect. Not saying that a single mom cannot do it, but the odds weigh heavily against.
Booker T. Washington had a three point agenda for the success of the black community under the horrific specter of segregation, Jim Crow, and lynchings – all Democrat policies of the day. He focused on education, entrepreneurship, and self-reliance to enable success for the blacks as individuals and the community as a whole. The policies supporting that agenda then are needed now more than ever.These questions about Ferguson, Missouri and black communities across the nation must be addressed and elevated until resolved. I look forward to the day when the black community is celebrating the opening of more businesses, the reduction of unemployment, the creation of better inner city schools, the end of black on black murder and violent crime, and the restoration of the black family. Those pursuits are worthy of remembering, not every year, but every day. They represent a nobler endeavor, worthy of the exertions and energy of the black community…and the legacy passed on to subsequent generations.
[This article first appeared in Townhall].