Ferguson Riots Not Nearly As Daunting As The 1960s Riots

Photo credit: R. Gino Santa Maria / Shutterstock.com
R. Gino Santa Maria / Shutterstock.com

Continued violence in Ferguson, Missouri brings back memories of the urban riots of the 1960s.

As it happens, I had a front-row seat back then, as an intern in the office of Detroit Mayor Jerome Cavanagh during the six-day riot in July 1967. At one point, I was alone in the so-called command center with Cavanagh and Michigan Gov. George Romney.

Forty-three people died in that riot. Many were bystanders who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. One was a deaf man who did not heed a policeman’s command, which he couldn’t hear.

Sadly, nearly 50 years later, we’re still facing rioting by blacks purportedly protesting police behavior. But there are some differences of varying significance between the riots of the 1960s and Ferguson today.

First, Ferguson is much tinier than the cities hit by 1960s riots. Ferguson had 21,203 people in 2010; Detroit had about 1.6 million in 1967.

In the 25 years between 1940 and 1965, nearly one-third of American blacks moved from the mostly rural and segregated South to the big cities of the North. Detroit’s black population increased from 150,000 in 1940 to 600,000 in 1967.

Detroit’s riot started when in the wee hours of Sunday morning, police raided a “blind pig” — an after-hours drinking place. No one was shot at the scene; but after a passive police response to looting, arson and violence continued for five successive nights.

The almost all-white Detroit Police and Michigan National Guard were unable to cope. Only after well-trained 82nd Airborne troops were sent in did the rioting end.

Detroit then, like Ferguson today, had an almost entirely white police force. Blacks in Detroit complained, with some basis, that police were hostile and often failed to distinguish between harmless and harmful behavior.

But there was no demand for specific punishment for an officer, as Ferguson residents and out-of-town rioters have demanded punishment for Officer Darren Wilson, who shot Michael Brown.

Those demands have seemed increasingly unjustified, as evidence — videotape of Brown’s theft at the convenience store, eyewitness accounts of the confrontation — has appeared.

Agitators Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson have treated this unhappy incident as emblematic of a larger problem, as if white policemen were shooting innocent blacks frequently.

But as the Wall Street Journal’s Jason Riley and Fox News contributor Juan Williams have pointed out, 90 percent of black homicide victims are killed by other (civilian) blacks.

Ferguson is an example of suburban communities that have seen racial change in recent years. But they are not large in numbers, and incidents of this sort are happily rare. Census data make it clear that, unlike the 1960s, black Americans are able to move to suburbs when they wish; and there’s not much evidence that suburban police departments treat them unfairly.

In contrast, Detroit in 1967 was the nation’s fifth-largest city; and most other major cities had experienced similarly huge influxes of blacks over the previous generation. The frictions unfortunately generated by this enormous demographic change were of national significance.

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The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom

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  1. Edward Koziol says:

    These people look forward for something like this to happen so they can loot and burn knowing that the police will let them

  2. MARRYANN33 says:

    When the Grand Jury finds no reason to indite then Obama will have his Martial Law as all this is planned to inflame the blacks to riot all over the country….Unless we have enough sensible blacks to go against the gangsters in their midst.

  3. I agree that Obama, Jesse Jackson, and Brother Al, Hillary Clinton and all of the other puppets who apparently are brainless think Americans are as dumb as they are, well if we all ban together for the common good and get rid of a few bad apples we can go back to getting America back to work to undue what this administration has worked so hard to screw up. I can't believe that he got elected twice once was enough to show America he is useless. Come on America we even let the elections be about color not principal. We have to vote for good not evil. This is what we get when we let illegals and thugs vote.

  4. I am ashamed that another life was wasted here. I do believe we will never see all of the truth. I also don't believe it was so easy for people of color to be so quick to judge of what they believe to be what happened when nobody not even everybody involved. The other person that was involved with Micheal Brown told police and anybody that would listen that Mr. Brown was shot in the back that was a lie according to the Medical Examiner who did the autopsy. The early reports stated that Mr. Brown put his hands on the police officer in a manner that "may" have seemed offensive and the police officer may have said get your hands off or he may have pulled his gun in either case when do black, white, yellow or any other color person have the right to put their hands on an official and think for a minute they should get away with it. He should have thought about what could have happened and did what he was told then he would still be here. I wished we could turn back time and this tragedy not happen. Mr. Brown could have been so much more. God Bless his family, friends, and anybody involved. I am not trying to come off as being on either side here just thinking Micheal should have been a little bit more careful that's all.

  5. If we could just put our thoughts about prejudice and racism in a box an bury it we should do so. This is not our country here. I know people are done wrong all of the time but still what is going to be our legacy violence against each other or victory for all of us when we pull together regardless of color we could make a big difference. We do not need so called reverends stirring the pot. If they were men of the cloth they would do what is asked of them and that is pray. I have never seen anything like these two they are so quick to fly to controversy and get things worse. I wish we could give them a lesson on what clergy is and not what they perceive it to be. They are definately twisted and yes I would say that if they were of another color.

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