Whites see harmony where blacks see racism

Alice Singen had always seen her home town Ferguson, Mo., as an integrated, harmonious place. Like many other white residents, she prided herself on staying here even when others began to leave.

But since the death of an unarmed black teenager at the hands of a white police officer, some African Americans are calling it segregated and racist. Now Singen has found herself talking in terms of “us” and “them,” “we” and “they.”

“I didn’t have any problems with anybody or any color, and all of a sudden it feels like we are being held responsible for something that’s not our fault,” Singen, 70, said as she left Faraci Pizza, a 46-year-old Ferguson business that has become a focal point of racial tension. “I don’t get it.”

That sense of shock is common here among Ferguson whites in the wake of 18-year-old Michael Brown’s death and the explosive protests in the days that followed.

The situation has forced many white Ferguson residents in this majority-black city — from small-business owners to the mayor and police chief — to question their beliefs about the community’s racial dynamics.

They have discovered that blacks and whites here profoundly disagree about the existence of racism and the fairness of the justice system. And now, whites who once believed their town was an exception in a country struggling with racial divisions have to confront the possibility it is not.

Between 2000 and 2010, the white population plummeted from 44 percent to 30 percent, while the black population grew from 50 percent to 67 percent.

In her majority-black neighborhood, a white house-owner staked an “I ♥ Ferguson” sign on her lawn.

Some of her neighbors reprimanded her for it. They interpreted the campaign as another way to mask the city’s injustice. Even the sign had two sides.

A Mexican American woman complained about how horrible it was to witness [black] teenagers getting tear-gassed.

“Well, we don’t know all the facts,” a white woman answered.

“But we do know that [Brown] had stolen those cigars, because we saw the video. And we know that the officer called him aside because he was jaywalking.”

Source: Washington Post