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Ferguson burns, South Africa simmers: Why America is but a matchstick away

Richard Poplak, writing in The Daily Maverick, a South African online daily. He was interviewed on PRI's The World today.
Like America, South Africa is enjoying its post-racial moment. Like America, South Africa’s post-racial moment describes a veneer, an invention of Brand South Africa ad hacks. Barack Obama was installed in the White House on the back of a successful marketing campaign—Hope!—and not because race had ceased to be a factor in American life. His presidency is a testament to the brilliance of his cutting-edge campaign technology, and not the thawing of America’s racial divide. The America he presides over is as segregated as it was during the Jim Crow years, perhaps more so. How do you fix Ferguson? Demilitarize the police? Increase diversity in municipal and state politics? Promote racial dialogue? Good luck with that. The Michael Brown’s of the world are the bottom bricks under a vast and inviolable socio-economic pyramid, and renovating that structure will take energy of great and sustained magnitude.

...

Here’s the link: when power and wealth are unevenly distributed; when “sophisticated”, “liberalized” economies demand winners and losers with no in-betweens; when we pray like faith-blind zealots before a zero-sum covenant; and when historical racial segregation provides a ready-made overclass and underclass, black lives simply don’t matter. The Marikana massacre occurred because black lives don’t matter; Andries Tatane was tenderized on tape because black lives don’t matter; Michael Brown was killed by Darren Wilson because black lives don’t matter; Trayvon Martin was shot by George Zimmerman while brandishing Scittles because black lives don’t matter.
There was an ironic saying going around South Africa in the years after 1994: "A white man's country run by a black man." After 2008, I thought about that same saying in the American context.

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