Ferguson and Race From White America's Perspective, If It Switched Places With Black America

Aug 25, 2014 | Updated Oct 24, 2014


One of the most mystifying elements of race in America is the inability of white and black citizens to switch places and experience life from their fellow American's perspective. If the tables were turned for one second, or one day, or even a week, the issue of racial profiling, or the killing of unarmed black teens by police might never again cause uproar in our country. There is a reason that 73% of blacks according to a USA Today/Gallup poll believed that if Trayvon Martin were white, George Zimmerman would have been arrested immediately while 52% of whites felt race made no difference in the case. There's also a reason why the National Review published the following essay titled, A White Person's Reaction To Obama's Trayvon Martin Speech, in which the author speaks from a vantage point foreign to most African-Americans regarding the Martin shooting:

He could have been me. I could have been out on neighborhood watch in my community performing my duties on a rainy night. It could have been me following a young African-American male around in my neighborhood because I did not recognize him, and because my neighborhood had been burglarized by young African Americans. It could have been me lying beneath a young black man who was striking my head against the concrete, my nose broken in a fight gone bad. It could have been me that tragic, deadly night.

It could have been me facing criminal charges for doing nothing illegal that night, presumed guilty of a crime I didn't commit, and presumed guilty of being a racist, even though I had not an ounce of racism in me, and even though the way I lived my life was proof of that assertion.

...It could have been me. I could have been George Zimmerman.

While the author of the National Review article could have also put himself in the shoes of Tayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager who was actually residing only yards away from where he was shot, and followed, by an overzealous neighborhood watchman, instead he chose to empathize with Zimmerman. Granted, not all white people side with Zimmerman (I certainly don't), however there's also a reason that the officer who shot Michael Brown has a support fund with over $234, 910 in donations from around the country. Certain Americans, particularly if they are conservative in their political leaning, are more likely to side with the police officers who killed Eric Garner in New York, or the officer who shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, or the Detroit man who killed Renisha McBride in Detroit. The racial divide is also highlighted by the fact that Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Renisha McBride were unarmed when they were killed, but in the minds of many, they still posed a deadly threat.

Therefore, since even the white, liberal author of this Huffington Post article has no possible way of knowing what it feels like to live the life of an African-American in Ferguson, or Detroit, or New York, one possible way to empathize with the plight of my fellow Americans is to imagine a world where statistics from the Pew Research Center, NAACP, and other reputable sources are reversed. If the tables were turned, and the author of the National Review article empathizing with Zimmerman, or the author of this piece, as well as white America in general (if such a phrase can even be defined accurately) dealt with the economic, judicial, and political disparities faced by our fellow African- Americans, what would it sound like? Well, imagine a world where statistics are reversed, the tables are turned, and the history of this country is turned on its head, upside down, and inverted so that white Americans experience the world of many African-Americans in this country.

If white and black America switched places, and you reverse relevant statistics and data, you might get a fictional world where...

After the election of the country's first white president, many assumed that the white population of the U.S., around 13.2% of the population, would finally experience life in exactly the same manner as the majority of citizens in this great nation, 77.7% of whom are African-American or black. The recent shootings of unarmed white teens in places like Sanford, Detroit, and Ferguson have shown everyone that despite the first white president, and despite the laws protecting the voting and civil rights of whites in America, things have changed, but not enough. We certainly aren't living in the days where whites were murdered for whistling at a black woman, or lynched by mobs. For example, between Reconstruction (shortly after the Civil war freed whites from slavery) until the beginning of the Great Depression, there were an estimated 2,462 white Americans lynched and killed by black mobs in the South and other regions of the U.S. Therefore, one can't say that race relations in the country are back to where law enforcement set vicious dogs and used high pressure water hoses against white protesters in Birmingham, Alabama. White America has advanced, and will continue to prosper in this country, however race still matters, and the events at Ferguson in recent weeks highlight this sad reality.

Ferguson is a suburb of St. Louis where two-thirds of its residents are white, but only 3 of 53 police officers are white and it faces double the level of poverty found in Missouri. However, the overwhelmingly non-violent protests by the white citizens of Ferguson, as well as the riots by some white citizens, are indicative of the vast disparities faced by whites in America. Since 1950, whites have faced double the unemployment of black Americans in the U.S. and this is only part of the overall economic disparity. According to reputable and non-partisan research, whites face a number of startling economic disparities:

The median household income for blacks was $67,175 in 2011... For whites, it was $39,760;

White Americans are nearly three times as likely as black Americans to live in poverty...

In 2011, the typical black household had a net worth of $91,405, compared with $6,446 for white households...

White men were more than six times as likely as black men in 2010 to be incarcerated in federal and state prisons, and local jails, the last year complete data are available.

So, when whites are three times as likely to live in poverty than blacks, when white men are more than six times as likely as black men to end up in jail, and when the average white household has a net work of only $6,446, there is something to be said for structural issues in our economy and society working against whites.

Furthermore, the 113th Congress is 85 percent black and 69% of the current administration is black. While the president is indeed white, most of the government is black and many feel the judicial system works against white Americans. According to the leading white American civil rights organization, criminal justice in America has some startling statistics:

White Americans now constitute nearly 1 million of the total 2.3 million incarcerated population...

White Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of blacks...

If White Americans and Hispanics were incarcerated at the same rates of blacks, today's prison and jail populations would decline by approximately 50%

One in six white men had been incarcerated as of 2001.

If current trends continue, one in three white males born today can expect to spend time in prison during his lifetime...

1 in 100 White American women are in prison...

Nationwide, White Americans represent 26% of juvenile arrests, 44% of youth who are detained, 46% of the youth who are judicially waived to criminal court, and 58% of the youth admitted to state prisons (Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice).

Thus, Ferguson is the result of more than just the issue of an interaction between a black policeman and an unarmed white teenager. When one in three white males can expect to visit jail, there's something odd about the judicial system.

When black America finally realizes that white America experiences higher incarceration rates for similar crimes, as well as the vast economic issues faced by whites in this country, Ferguson and other cities in the U.S., as well as black conservatives and pundits, will finally understand what life is really like for their fellow white Americans.

This article is only intended to shed light upon the disparities faced by Americans in this county and absolutely not meant to incite violence, animosity, or anger.