The riots that have engulfed part of the US state of Missouri is partly rooted in the growing racial segregation of America’s suburban schools, according to experts.
Mass protests broke out across the St Louis suburb of Ferguson in response to the police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, under highly disputed circumstances on 9 August. The incident – in which Mr Brown was fatally shot six times, twice in the head – sparked huge demonstrations that turned violent as the issue became one of race as much as perceived injustice.
And according to civil rights experts speaking to TES in this week’s issue, the riots were born out of the gradual “resegregation” of the area, as the suburbs of St Louis, and particularly its schools, became increasingly African American.
Gary Orfield, a professor of education, law and political science, and co-director of the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles, said the abandonment of civil rights policies since the 1980s had led to a marked rise in racial segregation in schools across the US suburbs.
When this coincided with the vast majority of school, council and police employees being white, tensions between communities were inevitable, Professor Orfield added. “Segregation, unequal schooling and job opportunities, a history of discrimination in the county and the tension between a racially changed population and white officials who do not institute strong civil rights policies – those things all matter,” he told TES.
Schools in the Ferguson district had been due to reopen this week after the summer holidays but were forced to remain closed owing to the disturbances, which have led officials to call in the National Guard.
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