Ferguson: A Symptom of a Deeper Culture and Values Problem

On the night of Monday, November 24, 2014 St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch announced that no charges would be filed against Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed 18 year-old Michael Brown on a street in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9, 2014.

Shortly afterwards, President Barack Obama went on television to make a statement, where he mentioned Brown’s parents and joined with them in urging people who disagreed with the grand jury’s decision to do so “peacefully”.

In what was described as surreal, a cable news network broadcast a split screen with Obama on one side asking for calm and on the other a helicopter view of people attempting to tip over a police car amidst flying tear gas canisters and crowds of protesters leavened with hooligans.

Since then, dozens have been arrested and businesses have been burned to the ground.

While the issues of an increasingly militarized police, relations between the police and the community and criminal justice reform are legitimate and needed areas of policy debate, these focus on the symptoms of a problem, not the problem itself.

The problem is one of culture and values.

Commentator, historian, and public intellectual Bernard Lewis put it this way:

When people realize that things are going wrong, there are two questions they can ask. One is, ‘What did we do wrong?’ and the other is ‘Who did this to us?’ The latter leads to conspiracy theories and paranoia. The first question leads to another line of thinking: How do we put it right?

Lewis was speaking specifically of Islamic cultures, but his observation is applicable to all people and cultures, because it speaks to the condition of the human heart.

The problems seen today in Ferguson and other black communities in America do not, as some assert, have their roots in the ‘legacy of slavery’. This is excuse-making and a cop out. Rather, they have their roots in the 1960’s and the reigning political philosophy that prevailed at the time and the policies that emanated from it.

The root problem is one where a large number of people have moved away from a culture and values system that has a proven record of producing upward mobility and human flourishing, into a sub-culture that has a proven record of producing poverty, illegitimacy, crime, and human misery.

Those trapped in the destructive sub-culture are then abetted by a so-called ‘leadership’ class who get and hold their political power by telling those in the sub-culture that they are the victims of the larger society and their situation is hopeless, apart from their ‘leadership’, all while advocating for policies that ensures those in poverty remain in poverty.

So-called ‘leaders’, such as Al Sharpton and his ilk, get their power from re-directing the question away from what individuals and communities can do to better their circumstances, i.e., ‘What did we do wrong?’ and towards blaming their condition on external causes, i.e., ‘Who did this to us?’.

As Lewis points out, the latter question leads to conspiracy theories and paranoia. It also leads to communities being burned to the ground and suffering in poverty for years or even decades afterwards.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan, in his famous 1965 report entitled The Negro Family: The Case for National Action wrote:

The fundamental problem…is that of family structure…[T]he negro family in the urban ghettos is crumbling. A middle class group has managed to save itself, but for vast numbers of the unskilled…[and] poorly educated…the fabric of conventional social relationships has all but disintegrated…So long as this situation persists, the cycle of poverty and disadvantage will continue to repeat itself.”

When Moynihan wrote these words in 1965, the illegitimacy rate among blacks was 25%. Today it is greater than 70%.

When President Lyndon Johnson announced his ‘Great Society’ plan to use the federal government to declare war on poverty in 1964, the poverty rate was around 14.7%. In 2012 the poverty rate was nearly unchanged at 15% (although today’s poor are materially better off than in 1964).

So after nearly 50 years and 20 TRILLION dollars spent in Johnson’s ‘Great Society’ war on poverty, the poverty rate has remained virtually unchanged while the illegitimacy rate in the black community has skyrocketed from 25% to over 70%.

It took the people enslaved by the Soviet Union some 70 years to break their chains of the tyranny of communism with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

We are 50 years and counting with the failed policies of big government liberalism as it pertains to poverty in general and the destructive dynamics in the black community in particular.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

The country is way past due for a course change.


4 Comments on “Ferguson: A Symptom of a Deeper Culture and Values Problem”

  1. Dave Moore says:

    Outstanding, Marshall. The best summation of this problem I have read. You need a wider audience.


  2. Lashawn says:

    It’s practically not possible to discover properly-informed people in this unique subject, even so,
    you appear to be like you know what you’re speaking about!
    Manyy thanks


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