What Really Caused the Riots in Ferguson?

What Really Caused the Riots in Ferguson?

If there is one thing everyone can agree on with the riots in Ferguson, it’s that it’s become one big, hot mess—quite literally. Fires were raging along the streets, protesters were blocking large intersections, and law enforcement is still working overtime trying to keep the city somewhat functioning.

Despite being a politician himself, Sen. Rand Paul says that the blame for the riots in Ferguson rests with politicians and the government itself—not law enforcement or the oppression of the African American ethnic group as a whole.

Yes, there is still a ton of racism in the United States, and it is a huge problem that needs consistent work from both citizens and politicians. That’s undeniable. But to Sen. Paul, the riots in Ferguson show that there are many kinds of injustice that have led to this, not just racism. To the Senator, the biggest factor that’s led to the riots in Ferguson is poverty and the desperation that results from it.

Sen. Paul stated in an editorial for Time Magazine that:

“Reforming criminal justice to make it racially blind is imperative, but that won’t lift up these young men from poverty. In fact, I don’t believe any law will. For too long, we’ve attached some mythic notion to government solutions and yet, 40 years after we began the War on Poverty, poverty still abounds.”

Basically, the senator is calling out his own colleagues on their failures in the fight against poverty. They can sit around all day and make countless laws that are supposed to help people save or earn more money, but when it comes down to the facts, it’s painfully obvious that these laws aren’t doing what they need to do. Just look at this chart from the Heritage Foundation.

What Caused The Riots in Ferguson


Yes, there’s a steep decline in poverty immediately following the beginning of the War on Poverty. But then look at the average slope of the poverty line up to 2013—it’s practically flat. In fact, poverty rates are higher in 2013 than they were in 1975. Now contrast that flat line with the huge increases of federal spending on welfare programs. Clearly, politicians are doing something wrong here.

Fighting poverty isn’t going to get any better with more spending and legislation. There’s got to be some kind of change, and Sen. Paul thinks that these changes will be intangible.

“While a hand-up can be part of the plan, if the plan doesn’t include the self-discovery of education, work, and the self-esteem that comes with work, the cycle of poverty will continue” (Time).

Sen. Paul points the blame of the riots in Ferguson to the politicians who have shoved more welfare and poverty laws into the federal budget, even though any real successes brought by the War on Poverty have been gone for a long time now. When it comes down to it, the events that have shaped events in Ferguson started long before Michael Brown was even born, let alone when he was shot by Officer Darren Wilson.

So what is Sen. Paul’s answer then to ending this cycle of poverty?

Two words: hope and purpose.

“I will continue the fight to reform our nation’s criminal justice system, but in the meantime, the call should go out for a charismatic leader, not a politician, to preach a gospel of hope and prosperity . . .  America is in need of a revival. Part of that is spiritual. Part of that is in civics, in our leaders, in our institutions . . .  Real solutions will include a revival of spirit, purpose, and action. I, for one, pledge to be part of those solutions” (Time).


Do you agree or disagree with Sen. Paul? Send a tweet about the riots in Ferguson or join the discussion on Facebook.

(Photo courtesy of Neil Cooler, CC BY 2.0)



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