Ferguson Missouri- Face of a Nation Where Poverty Has Moved to the Suburbs

Fegruson Missouri, where the police killing of an unarmed young Black man, Mike Brown, sparked rioting yesterday, represents the demographic contours of a society changed by gentrification and demographic inversion.. There are now more poor people living in suburbs than there are in inner city neighborhoods. In New York, the most famous historically Black neighborhoods, Harlem and Bedford Stuyvestant, have experienced an enormous white, and middle class influx, and can no longer be deemed “hypersegregated” That label would be more accurately applied to two suburban neighborhoods- Hempstead and Mount Vernon. I suspect the same dynamic can be found Chicago, Washington DC, and several other large US cities.

This means that civil unrest, in response to racial and class marginalization, should it take place— and there ample reasons to think it might– is far less likely to take place in center cities than it did in the 1960’s or even in the 1990’s. It is also less likely to threaten powerful institutions.

We are only beginning to understand the apparatus of containment and control-including zero tolerance policing and a huge prison industrial complex-developed to cope with higher levels of poverty in this country than most other advanced societies. But one thing is for sure- population distribution by race and class look very different than they did in the 1960’s. Cities are increasingly sites of investment and residence for the Global rich- poor people and people of color are now mostly living in the suburbs