Ferguson and the paradox of American diversity

St. Louis, like nearly everywhere else in the United States, has grown more multicultural (though less quickly than many other places). Immigrants to the area have lately come from Bosnia, India and China. But events in Ferguson demonstrate the paradox of American diversity: An increasingly multicultural nation remains deeply divided by race and class. There are many more friendships and marriages between white and minority Americans (about one in 12 marriages are interracial ) — but at the same time racially charged suspicion and anger persists among millions. And a broad perception of our own racial enlightenment and acceptance has created a different form of isolation — a self-satisfaction that obscures or masks deep social divisions…

In a sense, [Ferguson] is a different country. As the United States has grown more diverse and prosperous over the past several decades, the economic and social isolation of some communities has only increased. This is not entirely a function of race. Many in the white working class have also felt segregated from the promise of America. But problems are concentrated among African American males, who have disproportionately low levels of workforce participation, disproportionately high levels of incarceration and little sympathetic attention from the broader society.

This is not an excuse or even an explanation for any specific incident. It is just a context. African American males are in a long-term, economic and social crisis for which there are many economic and social explanations. But their most likely interactions with public authority are a squad car or a demand for child support.