When Starbucks opened in Ferguson, Mo., in 2016, politicians celebrated, predicting that the coffee chain would revitalize a city marred by violent protests over Michael Brown’s killing two years earlier. Other corporations made multimillion-dollar commitments to help rebuild the majority-black town that became a global symbol of racial and economic inequality. Four years after the unrest, nearly all of the new development is concentrated in the more prosperous, whiter parts of town, bypassing the predominantly black southeast neighborhood where Brown was fatally shot by a police officer, reports the Washington Post.
The investments, rather than easing the economic gap, have deepened that divide. The growing disparity is the result of decisions that reflect the difficulties of overcoming a legacy of racial segregation, economic exclusion and political disenfranchisement. Obstacles have included a corporate mindset willing to take on only so much risk, a seeming lack of political will, and a disadvantaged community’s inability to promote its own interests. Of the more than $36 million in bricks-and-mortar development that poured into the city after 2014, only $2.4 million — for a job training center — has directly benefited the isolated pocket were Brown died. “Nobody has presented to me any forensic evidence that shows that the stock of a household in black Ferguson has been improved since the death of Mike Brown,” said Adolphus Pruitt, president of the St. Louis NAACP. “At the end of the day, where is the significant transformation of the lives of the people who live in that part of Ferguson, who suffered the most during all of this?” Randy Lipton, a real estate developer whose family has owned the Canfield Green apartment complex for four decades, said the vacancy rate jumped from just over 10 percent to 75 percent in the year after Brown was killed.