The Dream Revisited
Discussion 11: Explaining Ferguson Through Place and Race

Discussion 11: Explaining Ferguson Through Place and Race

January 2015

The eleventh discussion in The Dream Revisited explores how metropolitan development patterns shaped by race and class set the stage for the events in Ferguson, MO.


  • The Ferguson Moment: Race and Place

    by John Mollenkopf, Todd Swanstrom

    Addressing the underlying causes of the unrest in Ferguson will require changing the regional patterns of inequality.  As we argue in Place Matters, the metropolitan playing field is tilted toward suburban sprawl and urban and inner suburban decline. Governments in the St. Louis region subsidize the flight of middle-class, largely white, families out of the older parts of the region by building highways rather than public transit and giving tax breaks for jobs to decentralize. 


  • Race, Justice, and the Matters of Black Lives

    by Christopher M. Tinson

    I would offer a few points that intersect with Mollenkopf and Swanstrom’s insights and others that present a different reading of the circumstances of Black life. Where [Mollenkopf and Swanstrom] err is in their discounting of race as a continuing central factor in the processes of structural suppression they highlight. I argue that anti-Black policymaking has been the rule in American society, not an accidental or “old-fashioned” feature, but one that is continually reshaped and which guarantees certain material outcomes from a devaluation of difference.

  • What Does Obama’s Election Tell Us About “The Ferguson Moment”?

    by Jennifer Hochschild

    Our current morass results mainly from the toxic mix of race, place, and poverty, and solutions to it must move beyond old tropes of white racism and black powerlessness. So my comments here will mainly amplify the argument of “The Ferguson Moment.” Electing a black president, twice, did not of course signal that the United States is post-racial, whatever that means; countless scholarly writings show that race persists as a causal factor in almost everything that matters.  But electing a black president twice does signal some sort of crucial change—the question is what the signal means.

  • Five Concrete Steps Towards a St. Louis Comeback

    by Jeff Smith

    In greater St. Louis, decisions of the past created the conditions of the present, which have imbued so many residents with a nihilism about the future. Swanstrom and Mollenkopf’s diagnosis of this despair’s underlying causes largely comports with myassessment a week after Michael Brown’s death. But since we seem to agree about the root causes, it seems more fruitful here to focus on potential solutions. In pressing President Obama after the 2008 financial collapse, Rahm Emanuel counseled the president, “Never let a serious crisis go to waste.” In that vein, it may be the right moment to broach solutions to many of the problems that have long plagued the region.

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