Higher Education

Learning and rebuilding in Ferguson


The shooting death of Michael Brown sparked peaceful and violent protests in Ferguson, Mo. Credit: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, J.P. Forbes/AP

The fatal shooting of a black 18-year-old by a white police officer — and the unrest that followed — are now the subject of lessons at colleges near the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, reports Katherine Mangan in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Cindy Epperson, professor of sociology at St. Louis Community College at Meramec, teaches Crime and Society and Introduction to Sociology. She plans to diagram “Michael Brown and the groups that surround him—the grieving family and the grieving community—and how his death connected him to a community of strangers. We’ll talk about how the life and death of this young man will lead to social change.”

We’ll also talk about debunking stereotypes and myths. Most of the looters shown in the media were black, so people who believe this is what black people do are going to say, “See, I told you so.” But what we do in sociology is look at how many people were there and how many were not looting. How many were opportunists whose actions had nothing to do with the death of Michael Brown?

My colleagues and I have spent time with the protesters in Ferguson, trying to get our heads around what’s happening. We want students to start thinking critically about how the events relate to each other and about possible solutions. Why are there only three African-American officers out of 53 when 63 percent of Ferguson is African-American? What kinds of attitudes might be preventing people from becoming police officers, and how can the college be part of the solution?

Centene, a managed-care company, plans to build a claims center in Ferguson that will create 150 to 200 full-time jobs, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The company hopes to open a temporary facility in Ferguson by the end of the year.

“It is time for action, not talk,” Centene chairman and CEO Michael Neidorff said in a written statement.

St. Louis Community College will provide targeted job training for the new employees.

Letters

Joanne Jacobs

Joanne Jacobs, formerly of the San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News, is a freelance journalist who blogs at joannejacobs.com. See Archive

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