There's an urban war going on in American society. Some say it's between black and white, like Black Lives Matter (which has turned into just another left-wing, progressive pressure group). Others put it in economic terms (richer vs. poorer) or adopt Marxist views of class warfare. However, the cause of much (although, admittedly, not all) of the friction appears to be deliberate social planning on the part of urban progressives and local, regional and national authorities. It began in the 1920's, progressed to issues discussed in the Moynihan Report in 1965, and continues to this day in areas such as national housing initiatives.
Back in 2008, the Atlantic published a long and very informative article that outlined one aspect of the problem - the spread of crime and violence. It was so politically incorrect that it's been largely buried and forgotten since then. I was reminded of it via an e-mail exchange yesterday, and I think it's worth recalling it to mind. Here's a lengthy excerpt from the (much longer) article, this part discussing changing patterns of crime in Memphis, Tennessee.
While crime rates in large cities stayed flat, homicide rates in many midsize cities (with populations of between 500,000 and 1 million) began increasing, sometimes by as much as 20 percent a year. In 2006, the Police Executive Research Forum, a national police group surveying cities from coast to coast, concluded in a report called “A Gathering Storm” [link is to an Adobe Acrobat document in .PDF format] that this might represent “the front end ... of an epidemic of violence not seen for years.” The leaders of the group, which is made up of police chiefs and sheriffs, theorized about what might be spurring the latest crime wave: the spread of gangs, the masses of offenders coming out of prison, methamphetamines. But mostly they puzzled over the bleak new landscape. According to FBI data, America’s most dangerous spots are now places where Martin Scorsese would never think of staging a shoot-out—Florence, South Carolina; Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina; Kansas City, Missouri; Reading, Pennsylvania; Orlando, Florida; Memphis, Tennessee.
Memphis has always been associated with some amount of violence. But why has Elvis’s hometown turned into America’s new South Bronx? Barnes thinks he knows one big part of the answer, as does the city’s chief of police. A handful of local criminologists and social scientists think they can explain it, too. But it’s a dismal answer, one that city leaders have made clear they don’t want to hear. It’s an answer that offers up racial stereotypes to fearful whites in a city trying to move beyond racial tensions. Ultimately, it reaches beyond crime and implicates one of the most ambitious antipoverty programs of recent decades.
. . .
About five years ago, Janikowski embarked on a more ambitious project. He’d built up enough trust with the police to get them to send him daily crime and arrest reports, including addresses and types of crime. He began mapping all violent and property crimes, block by block, across the city. “These cops on the streets were saying that crime patterns are changing,” he said, so he wanted to look into it.
When his map was complete, a clear if strangely shaped pattern emerged: Wait a minute, he recalled thinking. I see this bunny rabbit coming up. People are going to accuse me of being on shrooms! The inner city, where crime used to be concentrated, was now clean. But everywhere else looked much worse: arrests had skyrocketed along two corridors north and west of the central city (the bunny rabbit’s ears) and along one in the southeast (the tail). Hot spots had proliferated since the mid-1990s, and little islands of crime had sprung up where none had existed before, dotting the map all around the city.
Janikowski might not have managed to pinpoint the cause of this pattern if he hadn’t been married to Phyllis Betts, a housing expert at the University of Memphis. Betts and Janikowski have two dogs, three cats, and no kids; they both tend to bring their work home with them. Betts had been evaluating the impact of one of the city government’s most ambitious initiatives: the demolition of the city’s public-housing projects, as part of a nationwide experiment to free the poor from the destructive effects of concentrated poverty. Memphis demolished its first project in 1997. The city gave former residents federal “Section8” rent-subsidy vouchers and encouraged them to move out to new neighborhoods. Two more waves of demolition followed over the next nine years, dispersing tens of thousands of poor people into the wider metro community.
If police departments are usually stingy with their information, housing departments are even more so. Getting addresses of Section 8 holders is difficult, because the departments want to protect the residents’ privacy. Betts, however, helps the city track where the former residents of public housing have moved. Over time, she and Janikowski realized that they were doing their fieldwork in the same neighborhoods.
About six months ago, they decided to put a hunch to the test. Janikowski merged his computer map of crime patterns with Betts’s map of Section8 rentals. Where Janikowski saw a bunny rabbit, Betts saw a sideways horseshoe (“He has a better imagination,” she said). Otherwise, the match was near-perfect. On the merged map, dense violent-crime areas are shaded dark blue, and Section8 addresses are represented by little red dots. All of the dark-blue areas are covered in little red dots, like bursts of gunfire. The rest of the city has almost no dots.
Betts remembers her discomfort as she looked at the map. The couple had been musing about the connection for months, but they were amazed—and deflated—to see how perfectly the two data sets fit together. She knew right away that this would be a “hard thing to say or write.” Nobody in the antipoverty community and nobody in city leadership was going to welcome the news that the noble experiment that they’d been engaged in for the past decade had been bringing the city down, in ways they’d never expected. But the connection was too obvious to ignore, and Betts and Janikowski figured that the same thing must be happening all around the country.
There's more at the link.
This displays precisely the same sort of thinking that drives many anti-gunners to want to ban or strictly regulate firearms in an attempt to address what they refer to as 'gun violence'. They think, if they ban or control the instrument, they'll control the problem involving that instrument. What they ignore, of course, is the reality that an instrument has no moral volition of its own. A gun, left to its own devices, will just lie where it's been placed. It can and will do nothing at all. It takes a human actor to pick it up, load it, aim it and pull the trigger. In the same way, a car won't strike a pedestrian and kill him or her on its own. It takes a driver to direct (or misdirect) it. If you ignore the human being in the equation, you completely misunderstand the problem - and your proposed solution won't solve it.
Precisely the same thinking is visible in the efforts at social reform that have driven approaches to housing the 'poor' or 'underprivileged'. Housing has been seen as the problem, rather than people. Unless and until the individuals and groups involved change their approach to life, and the way they behave, spreading them into new suburbs won't solve their problems - it'll merely distribute their problems over a wider area. However, utopian progressives don't want to hear that. They're doing something! That's all that's important! Whether it's actually working is neither here nor there - it's the doing that matters! (Chris Byrne recently addressed this, in the context of gun control, in an excellent article titled 'But there MUST be SOMETHING we can do? We HAVE to do SOMETHING!!!' I highly recommend clicking over to his blog and reading it, because it explains that mindset very well.)
I suggest that what we saw in Milwaukee over the weekend is yet another manifestation of this reality. The protesters (and those organizing them) ignore the reality that the man who was shot by police had a criminal record, was holding a gun, and was fleeing from police. They simply proclaim that he shouldn't have been shot. A New Black Panther spokesman said:
This is oppressed people fighting against a racist, white supremacist police system. Which is meant to oppress a certain group of people. More than likely black people and poor people around the country. What you see is people lashing out and fighting against the system ... Is it a war? Yes, it is. It’s a war against black people because we’re the ones being murdered. We’re the ones being killed. So there’s been a war against us.
Is that the truth? He believes it to be true. I would reject it as factually untrue, but that's the problem. I'm trying to argue based on the facts as I see and interpret them. He's arguing based on an entirely different interpretation of the facts - and sometimes from entirely different 'facts' that I might reject as non-factual (and vice versa, of course). We're never going to see eye to eye unless we understand each other's perspectives, and the moral and ethical foundations on which we stand.
I have to admire the honesty of the dead man's father in admitting his share of responsibility for his son's death at the hands of police in Milwaukee. He clearly has his own issues with perception versus facts, but he's doing his best to address the reality of the situation.
“What are we gonna do now? Everyone playing their part in this city, blaming the white guy or whatever, and we know what they’re doing. Like, already I feel like they should have never OK'd guns in Wisconsin. They already know what our black youth was doing anyway. These young kids gotta realize this is all a game with them. Like they’re playing Monopoly. You young kids falling into their world, what they want you to do. Everything you do is programmed. I had to blame myself for a lot of things too because your hero is your dad and I played a very big part in my family’s role model for them. Being on the street, doing things of the street life: Entertaining, drug dealing and pimping and they’re looking at their dad like 'he’s doing all these things.' I got out of jail two months ago, but I’ve been going back and forth in jail and they see those things so I’d like to apologize to my kids because this is the role model they look up to. When they see the wrong role model, this is what you get. They got us killing each other and when they even OK'd them pistols and they OK'd a reason to kill us too. Now somebody got killed reaching for his wallet, but now they can say he got a gun on him and they reached for it. And that’s justifiable. When we allowed them to say guns is good and it’s legal, we can bear arms. This is not the wild, wild west y’all. But when you go down to 25th and center, you see guys with guns hanging out this long, that’s ridiculous, and they’re allowing them to do this and the police know half of them don’t have a license to carry a gun. I don’t know when we’re gonna start moving. I’ve gotta start with my kids and we gotta change our ways, to be better role models. And we gotta change ourselves. We’ve gotta talk to them, put some sense into them. They targeting us, but we know about it so there’s no reason to keep saying it’s their fault. You play a part in it. If you know there’s a reason, don’t give in to the hand, don’t be going around with big guns, don’t be going around shooting each other and letting them shoot y’all cause that’s just what they’re doing and they’re out to destroy us and we’re falling for it."
Again, more at the link.
Unless and until all parts of our society can admit to our share of the problem - and yes, there's enough blame to go around! - we aren't going to solve these issues. Unfortunately, I don't see any way in which all sides will be prepared to accept their share of responsibility. Meanwhile, those with lives and property to defend (including myself, if necessary) will do so against criminal attacks by mobs and violent, disaffected segments of society . . . and thereby beget more resentment and bitterness among them. It's a vicious cycle, and a bleak prospect.