In an editorial, the New York Times says the police shooting of Michael Brown, 18, in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is “a reminder of a toxic racial legacy that still infects cities and suburbs across America.” The paper says St. Louis has long been one of the nation's most segregated metropolitan areas, and there remains a high wall between black residents — who overwhelmingly have lower incomes — and the white power structure that dominates City Councils and police departments like the ones in Ferguson.
Exclusionary zoning kept blacks out of many suburban St. Louis County towns until the 1970s. When blacks began moving to Ferguson, whites fled. In 1980, the town was 85 percent white and 14 percent black; by 2010, it was 29 percent white and 69 percent black. But blacks did not gain political power as their numbers grew. The mayor and the police chief are white, as are five of the six City Council members. The school board has six white members and one Hispanic. Just three of the city’s 53 police officers are black. The Times says the city of 21,000 has a “sense of permanent grievance held by many residents and shared in segregated urban areas around the country.”