09/22/2014 03:09 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Race and the Economy: Learning From Ferguson

Peter Creticos, executive director of the Institute for Work and the Economy, believes discussion about what happened in Ferguson, Missouri, last month, reflects a discussion Americans have been having about inequality for decades, but that the question of why it happened extends beyond race.

Since it is in our nature as a country to look through the lens of race whenever there is an issue involving white and black protagonists, we ignore other factors that drive recent events. The events that happened in Ferguson, along with Dearborn Heights, MI, when Theodore Wafer shot Renisha McBride in the face, and when George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin in Sanford, FL, are not confined to race alone, but to a deep-seated set of fears of survival and well-being that transcend this racial construct....

The incessant drumbeat of jobs being outsourced and offshored has challenged the standing of hard-working people regardless of race, gender or ethnicity. Wages continue to be pushed down while new demands are placed on workers to simply re-qualify for jobs that they hold now....

African Americans continue to get the worse of it. Those who start out poor not only continue to hit "normal" intractable barriers to greater economic opportunities, they also have to deal with persistent, almost undetectable discrimination - at least undetectable to the people doing the discriminating...

The differences felt in this millennium are that great changes are hitting middle income whites who, for the first time in generations, face the prospect that they will be less well off than their parents, and that their children and possibly their grandchildren may be worse off still. During other times of economic stress, the people exercising the levers of power fought back by holding onto whatever remained in their control.

Read the rest of Creticos' thoughts on race and the economy at Reboot Illinois.

Here in Illinois, the Better Government Association has launched a probe to look into the hiring of a Cook County Sheriff's office emplyee after she resigned. Colleen Haran was found to be logging hours that she didn't work and resigned instead of being fired. But the BGA found something more interesting in the way her employment at the sherrif's office began than how it ended. The BGA found that she had several connections to other city workers. Did her clout help her get the job?