Dispossessions in Ferguson

Part I: The Dispossession of the Illini
The city of Ferguson, MO, was built within the historical territories of the Illini/Illiniwek or Illinois Confederacy, including the tribes of the Albiui, Amonokoa, Cahokia, Chepoussa, Chinkoa, Coiracoentanon, Kaskaskia, Moingwena, Michigamea, Espeminkia, Maroa, Matchinkoa, Michibousa, Negawichi, Peoria, Tamaroa, and Tapouara.
Through 1700, the confederacy was decimated by disease and warfare. By 1800, only five tribes remained—the Cahokia, Kaskaskia, Michigamea, Peoria, and Tamaroa. Under the terms of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, they were forced to cede their remaining territorial holdings and remove to Indian Territory.

Allegedly, some tribal lands were bought or otherwise acquired by Charles A. Lewis, who sold them to William B. Ferguson. In 1855, Ferguson deeded 10 acres as a right-of-way to the North Missouri Railroad Company–or, the Wabash, St. Louis, and Pacific Railroad Company. In exchange for the deed, the company located a train stop on the property and named the stop after Ferguson.

In 1876, the company built a spur line linking Ferguson and St. Louis. Ferguson Station then served as a rural place around which a suburb was built. It was incorporated as a city in 1894. Early settlers were primarily wealthy white landowners and investors following the railroad line.

Part II: The Dispossession of African Americans

Subject
Number
Percent
RACE
  Total population
21,203
100.0
    One race
20,782
98.0
      White
6,206
29.3
      Black or African American
14,297
67.4
      American Indian and Alaska Native
80
0.4
      Asian
103
0.5
      Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander
4
0.0
      Some Other Race
92
0.4
    Two or More Races
421
2.0
      Two races with Some Other Race
23
0.1
      Two races without Some Other Race
349
1.6
      Three or more races with Some Other Race
3
0.0
      Three or more races without Some Other Race
46
0.2
HISPANIC OR LATINO
  Total population
21,203
100.0
    Hispanic or Latino (of any race)
260
1.2
      Mexican
138
0.7
      Puerto Rican
42
0.2
      Cuban
18
0.1
      Other Hispanic or Latino [2]
62
0.3
    Not Hispanic or Latino
20,943
98.8

According to the Census 2010, Ferguson is 29.3 percent (6,206) are White, 67.4 percent (14,297) are Black, 0.4 percent (80) are American Indian/Alaskan Native, 0.5 percent (103) are Asian, and 1.2 percent (260) are Hispanic or Latino.

As has been reported in relation to the murder of Michael Brown, often as a banal fact of life for African Americans, the overwhelming majority of Ferguson city officials, police, and school board members are White.

As reported in the New York Times

With primarily white police forces that rely disproportionately on traffic citation revenue, blacks are pulled over, cited and arrested in numbers far exceeding their population share, according to a recent report from Missouri’s attorney general. In Ferguson last year, 86 percent of stops, 92 percent of searches and 93 percent of arrests were of black people — despite the fact that police officers were far less likely to find contraband on black drivers (22 percent versus 34 percent of whites). This worsens inequality, as struggling blacks do more to fund local government than relatively affluent whites…. That helps explain why majority-black Ferguson has a virtually all-white power structure: a white mayor; a school board with six white members and one Hispanic, which recently suspended a highly regarded young black superintendent who then resigned; a City Council with just one black member; and a 6 percent black police force.

But this is not just a matter of the disparity between white men and everyone else in the public life of Ferguson (though there is that), but how racist and sexist ideologies and practices of violence inform and reproduce that disparity as banality.

Part III: Dispossession in Between

The current structure of power in the United States is predicated on the violent and fraudulent dispossession of Native nations from their historical territories and resources and the exploitative dispossession of Blacks from their bodies and labor.

Opposing that power demands that we not dismiss as banal either the erasure of Native peoples from Ferguson, Missouri, as a historical fact that those few Natives still around need to get over and stop making everyone else feel guilty about or the killing and disenfranchisement of Black people as an unfortunate deviance from an otherwise democratically principled society.

Opposing that power demands that we look for ways to connect our histories of dispossession in compassion, generosity, and solidarity. What would it look like if Native governments, in their government-to-government relations with the United States and Missouri, advocated with Ferguson leaders against police violence on Black male bodies? What would it look like if Black leaders in Ferguson and elsewhere demanded, as part of the necessary legal reforms needed to address violence against their communities, Native land rights? How might we rethink our histories and struggles as interlocked and interdependent against their fractured separation in the service of existing power relations? 


 

“A great many people in North America believe that Canada and the United States, in a moment of inexplicable generosity, gave treaty rights to Native people as a gift. Of course, anyone familiar with the history of Indians in North America knows that Native people paid for every treaty right, and in some cases, paid more than once. The idea that either country gave First Nations something for free is horseshit.” ― Thomas KingThe Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America
 
“Where the really sincere white people have got to do their ‘proving’ of themselves is not among the black victims, but out on the battle lines of where America’s racism really is – and that’s in their own home communities.” — Malcolm X, Autobiography

One response to “Dispossessions in Ferguson

  1. Interesting view great point on dispossession and the move to claim power to back a freedom of space based on racially displaced cultures. Have we looked at religiosity and each cultural religion maybe that might be a big problem do all these dispossessed cultures share the same beliefs and faith do they pray together to get along with each other ?

    Like

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