Healing Ferguson Begins With Its Children

The Ferguson Commission’s blockbuster report shows that children of color face challenges at every turn.

ia flickr user Jamelle Bouie

Much of what emerged from the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, last summer was heartrending. But none, arguably, was more so than the photographs of Ferguson’s children.

“My generation is next...Don’t Shoot!” read a sign held by the little girl in the pigtails. Two other children marched in shirts a little too big, bearing the words, “We are Mike Brown.” These were young people forced to grapple with questions they shoud have been too young to understand.

Now a new report on that community indicates that those children will be key to healing that profound social and economics ills that ail St. Louis County—and the nation.

On Monday, a diverse 16-person commission appointed by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon released an extended report on the state of racial equity in Ferguson.

“We know that talking about race makes a lot of people uncomfortable,” the Ferguson Commission wrote in the 198-page report released online. “But make no mistake: this is about race.”

Many of this country’s inequities are seeded before its children are even teenagers, the report found. Giving children access to excellent educations and support networks could solve problems—crime, cyclical incarceration, health disparities—before they even begin.

Overwhelming statistics

An entire section of report zooms in on the nearly overwhelming challenges facing the children of St. Louis’ majority black neighborhoods, and children in similar neighborhoods all over America. Some of the more distressing takeaways:

  • In 2013, 26.1 percent of America’s black households were food insecure, compared to 14.3 percent of all American households.
  • During the 2011-2012 school year, 14.3 percent of Missouri’s black elementary students were suspended from school, compared to just 1.8 percent of white students.
  • Between 2010 and 2013, 20 percent of black students and 27 percent of Hispanic high schoolers did not graduate in four years. Only 11 percent of white students did not graduate.

This is a maelstrom of opportunity denied. The commission, and the studies it examines, found that children with poor nutrition are also children with slow mental development and physical growth. Children who are often suspended are more likely to become dropouts or delinquents. And Missouri children who don’t receive high school diplomas will make an average $8,109 less than their peers with diplomas.

via flickr user Jamelle Bouie

Hoping for solutions

The facts are harsh. But the report also includes some important solutions. Many of its recommendations concerned the children of Ferguson:

  • Reforming federal nutrition programs to make sure all those who deserve vouchers and food stamps are able to receive them.
  • Creating in-school medical centers, so that all children can receive the care they need.
  • Giving teachers additonal training to help educators understand and work to eliminate racial bias.
  • Reducing out-of-school suspensions to ensure that the most troubled students are not also those missing the most school.

‘This moment is urgent’

These are important ideas for Ferguson. But as a number of commissioners have pointed out, much of the work is ahead of Missouri.

“[The commission] is a group of citizens saying to our elected officials that this moment is urgent and you must move with greater intentionality to getting justice for all of our citizens,” Rev. Starsky Wilson, a co-chairman of the commission, told the New York Times.

[quote position="full" is_quote="true"]Help my peers to connect to positive influences to help us develop into strong community members and leaders.[/quote]

The children of Ferguson feel that urgency, too. At the open meetings that lead to the creation of the document, a number of students spoke on what they hoped for the future.

“Motivate teachers to be devoted in the midst of all that is going on,” Mariah Jones, 13, said in one meetings’ invocation . “Help my peers to connect to positive influences to help us develop into strong community members and leaders.”

“We ask for peace for everyone affected as well as safety for all,” Jones added.

Photo by Li-An Lim on Unsplash

The future generations will have to live on this Earth for years to come, and, not surprisingly, they're very concerned about the fate of our planet. We've seen a rise in youth activists, such as Greta Thunberg, who are raising awareness for climate change. A recent survey indicates that those efforts are working, as more and more Americans (especially young Americans) feel concerned about climate change.

A new CBS News poll found that 70% of Americans between 18 and 29 feel climate change is a crisis or a serious problem, while 58% of Americans over the age of 65 share those beliefs. Additionally, younger generations are more likely to feel like it's their personal responsibility to address climate change, as well as think that transitioning to 100% renewable energy is viable. Overall, 25% of Americans feel that climate change is a "crisis," and 35% feel it is a "serious problem." 10% of Americans said they think climate change is a minor problem, and 16% of Americans feel it is not a problem that worries them.

The poll found that concern for the environment isn't a partisan issue – or at least when it comes to younger generations. Two-thirds of Republicans under the age of 45 feel that addressing climate change is their duty, sentiments shared by only 38% of Republicans over the age of 45.

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The healthcare systems in the United States and the United Kingdom couldn't be more different.

The UK's National Health Service is the largest government-run healthcare system in the world and the US's is largest private sector system.

Almost all essential health services in the UK are free, whereas in America cost can vary wildly based on insurance, co pays and what the hospitals and physicians choose to charge.

A medical bill in the US

One of the largest differences is cost. The average person in the UK spends £2,989 ($3915) per year on healthcare (most of which is collected through taxes), whereas the average American spends around $10,739 a year.

So Americans should obviously be getting better care, right? Well, the average life expectancy in the UK is higher and infant mortality rate is lower than that in the US.

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Plus, in the U.S., only 84% of people are covered by private insurance, Medicare or Medicaid. Sixteen percent of the population are forced to pay out of pocket.

In the UK, everyone is covered unless they are visiting the country or an undocumented resident.

Prescription drugs can cost Americans an arm and a leg, but in the UK, prescriptions or either free or capped at £8.60 ($11.27).

via Wikimedia Commons

The one drawback to the NHS system is responsiveness. In the UK people tend to wait longer for inessential surgeries, doctor's appointments, and in emergency rooms. Whereas, the US is ranked as the most responsive country in the world.

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The New York Times printed a fair evaluation of the UK's system:

The service is known for its simplicity: It is free at the point of use to anyone who needs it. Paperwork is minimal, and most patients never see a bill. … No one needs to delay medical treatment until he or she can afford it, and virtually everyone is covered. …

According to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States spent 17.2 percent of its economic output on health care in 2016, compared with 9.7 percent in Britain. Yet Britain has a higher life expectancy at birth and lower infant mortality.

Citizens in each country have an interesting perspective on each other's healthcare systems. UK citizens think it's inhumane for Americans have to pay through the nose when they're sick or injured. While Americans are skeptical of socialist medicine.

A reporter from Politics Joe hit the streets of London and asked everyday people what they think Americans pay for healthcare and they were completely shocked.

via Found Animals Foundation / Flickr

Service dogs are true blessings that provide a wide array of services for their owners based on their disability.

They can provide preventative alerts for people with epilepsy and dysautonomia. They can do small household tasks like turning lights on and off or providing stability for their owners while standing or walking.

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