Now “Ferguson” is today’s reflection of hundreds of years of injustices and struggle of African Americans. Since it is in our nature as a country to look through the lens of race whenever there is an issue involving white and black protagonists, we ignore other factors that drive recent events. The events that happened in Ferguson, along with Dearborn Heights, MI, when Theodore Wafer shot Renisha McBride in the face, and when George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin in Sanford, FL, are not confined to race alone, but to a deep-seated set of fears of survival and well-being that transcend this racial construct.

This millennium has witnessed events that have shaken the foundation of Americans in ways that were last experienced in the 1920s. The incessant drumbeat of jobs being outsourced and offshored has challenged the standing of hard-working people regardless of race, gender or ethnicity. Wages continue to be pushed down while new demands are placed on workers to simply re-qualify for jobs that they hold now. The great financial collapse further weakened faith in the promise of our systems to the point that the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements sometimes seem strangely indistinguishable. I believe this has created a pervasive sense of despair that is barely palpable and that acts like a silent metastatic cancer creating the conditions for irrational and onerous behaviors that result in people victimizing others. We are becoming unrecognizable to each other. If we do not come to grips with this, it is not far-fetched that we may find ourselves embarking slowly on paths that make each of us even unrecognizable to the person staring back in the mirror.

Tragically, the uncertainties of this millennium are nothing new for people who were never able to catch the wave of economic growth in prior decades. It is not a matter of bad luck or bad genes or personal defect. Simply put, opportunities are distributed unequally across communities. Investments follow other investments and places that get skipped over never make up lost ground. Consequently, many who are born into poverty also will remain in poverty irrespective of race or ethnicity as real opportunities remain just out of their reach.

African Americans continue to get the worse of it. Those who start out poor not only continue to hit “normal” intractable barriers to greater economic opportunities, they also have to deal with persistent, almost undetectable discrimination – at least undetectable to the people doing the discriminating. Black men are not imagining the experience of being followed through a store as a presumptive shoplifter. That is real. I have never experienced this as a white and neither have my wife and children. Tragically, these same suspicions toward African Americans get carried over to jobs, housing and even friendships.

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