The tragedy and turmoil in Ferguson, Missouri—the fatal police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, followed by sometimes violent protests and a heavy-handed police crackdown—have once again brought the national spotlight on race relations in America. It has also revealed unusual political alignments, with libertarian-leaning Republican Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and some other libertarians and conservatives joining liberals and leftists to denounce abusive police behavior, particularly toward young African-American males. Others on the right—not only Rush Limbaugh but black commentators such as Jason Riley—are taking a more traditional conservative view which sees the black community's worst woes as due not to racism but to its own cultural problems, aggravated by the welfare state and liberal paternalism.
Each of these narratives, writes Cathy Young, has its truths and its blinders. Each, by itself, is overly simplistic and (as it were) black and white, both with regard to the situation in Ferguson and with regard to the larger picture.