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Antipathy writ large

A young protester covers his face with the US flag in Ferguson Monday.

Startling, but perhaps not all that surprising, figures emerge from this op-ed piece "White America's racial blinders" in The Boston Globe - dealing with the upheavals in Ferguson and beyond - on the divide in America between white and black.

"The dispiriting saga from Ferguson, Mo., provides another tragic window on decades of indifference to economic disparities — and on those fatal split seconds when police see black men as violent criminals rather than citizens. Ferguson raises anew the question of how many more unarmed black men must die before the nation declares this an all-American problem.

As unjustified as the Aug. 9 shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown was, and as much as it has dominated the news, white America has barely shrugged its shoulders. Evidence of that indifference came Monday when the Pew Research Center released a national survey of attitudes about Ferguson and its meaning.

Asked whether the shooting in Ferguson “raises important issues about race,” 80 percent of black respondents said it did. But only 37 percent of white respondents agreed. And while two-thirds of black people said the police response in the aftermath of the Ferguson shooting went too far, only a third of white people thought so. Only a quarter of white respondents said they had followed the story closely, compared to half of black respondents.


"White Americans take a stunningly Pollyannaish view of inequity, despite worsening income and wealth gaps, a black male unemployment rate double that of white males, continuing job discrimination, disparate prison sentences for non-violent drug offenses, and Obama-era efforts by Republican-dominated state legislatures to limit voting rights. In a Pew survey on the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, only 13 to 16 percent of white Americans saw racial unfairness in workplaces, schools, health care, restaurants, or elections.

When the general white population sees no disparities, it is easy to see how the police, in turn, do not see full human beings in their crosshairs, especially when departments are disproportionately white. USA Today last week reported that nearly two black people a week were killed by white police in a seven-year period ending in 2012, based on its analysis of available FBI data on killings ruled justifiable homicides. Nearly one in five of the black people killed by police were under 21, while only one in 11 white people killed by police were that young."


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