One of the things that clearly contributes to the racial tensions in Ferguson, MO is the racial disparity in the racial makeup of the population and that of the city government and police force. As of the 2010 census the population was 67% black. Yet, the mayor and all of the city council are white and all but three members of the police force are. This really is not a reasonable and workable situation. Reading about this set me to wondering just how often such a disparity occurs in other cities.
Wikipedia has listings for cities with majority black and Latino populations. The lists are quite long.
As you can see the list for black majorities is out of date in terms of current census data.
There is not a readily available cross reference between these two list and data on the makeup of the governing bodies of those cities. However that information can be dug up. I am not interested in taking on a comprehensive research project, but a few examples will illustrate that the situation in Ferguson is not unique.
Historically most of the attention in this matter has focused on black communities and their grievances. Those are real and serious. However, there is also the growing Latino community to consider. Similar disparities in population and government exist in many places and tensions and protests are beginning to surface. The city of Anaheim CA offers a good example.
Anaheim located in Orange Co CA has a population of 350K. Only 27% of the people are non-Hispanic whites. Latinos make up 53% and Asians 15%. Here is a link to the Anaheim city council. It proudly displays the smiling white faces of the mayor and all the council members. The situation has already led to protest as reported by the New York Times.
California has 18 cities with a population greater than 100K with majority Latino populations. I am fairly confident that a similar imbalance exist in a number of those. There are many more smaller cities with a majority Latino population.
The southern Jim Crow regime totally disenfranchised black citizens from the end of reconstruction to the civil rights movement of the 1960s. The federal voting rights act was a fairly muscular effort to correct those abuses. It focused primarily on southern states. The present Supreme Court is chiseling away at that law. There is a revived effort at suppressing the voting power of minorities. It is of necessity somewhat more subtle than the literacy and poll taxes of yore. It is no less determined in it purpose.
Cities like Ferguson and Anaheim need to be the target of voter organizing campaigns like those that took place in Mississippi in the 1960s. The problems of today are different and more complex but the solution is the same - voting power. The only way to make people feel that they have some control over their lives and circumstances is for them to have a voice in the making of public decisions.
It is the Democrats who need to pay attention to this. The Democrats are prone to take the votes of minorities for granted. It is true that when they vote they are much more likely to vote Democratic than Republican, but if they can't or don't vote they don't contribute to the election of Democratic candidates and they don't have an investment in the political system. Most of the political energy gets focused on congressional and presidential elections. The people who vote in those elections live in communities. Those communities are the place to find and organize minority voters.