by Zoltan Hajnal. The author is a professor of political science at the University of California, San Diego and author of “America’s Uneven Democracy: Race, Turnout and Representation in City Politics."
This post originally appeared on Political Violence At a Glance.
It appears that violence in Ferguson is fading away. That is certainly a welcome development. But before the eyes of the media and the attention of the public shift to the next pressing issue, we should use this opportunity to think about reforms that can prevent future Fergusons. A solution that is easy to legislate and remarkably effective is readily available.
There are many factors driving the anger in Ferguson. But the fact that African Americans had almost no representation in city government shaped almost everything that happened in that Missouri suburb. The figures are stark. Blacks represent two-thirds of the city population, yet the mayor, five of six city council members, six of seven school board members, and 50 of 53 police officers are all not black.
Ferguson is not alone on this front. Across the nation, racial and ethnic minorities are grossly underrepresented in city government. African Americans make up roughly 12 percent of the population but only 4.3 percent of city councils and 2 percent of all mayors. The figures for Latinos and Asian Americans are even worse.