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Racial Matters

The Sensitive Subject of Violent Crime in Black Urban Neighborhoods

A few weeks ago, the New York Times ran a major article about a large exodus of black residents from Chicago—some 200,000 have left over the last twenty years, 50,000 since 2015, the paper reported.
The article  focused mainly on three generations of a black family that had originally settled on Chicago's West Side during the 1950s.  The first generation settled in well, bought a home, but the second and third generations began questioning whether Chicago was the best place to raise children, according to the article.  By the early 2000s, Dora White, a member of the second generation of the White family, "had grown concerned about their surroundings. By 2003, no other city in the country had as many homicides as Chicago. Their neighborhood of Austin, a community of aging brick houses, greystones and apartment buildings that occupies a large swath of Chicago's West Side, had become notorious for its violence."

Dora White had become somewhat accepting of street drug sales because it was pretty much out of sight. But "the young guys, they just started blocking streets, blocking traffic. They didn't care."

Ms. White worried about her teenage daughter. "who was bright and ambitious," and decided she "wanted to get her out of that environment." Her solution was to buy a house in the suburb of Hillside, ten miles west of Chicago.

The New York Times reporter kind of dances around the notion of crime being the major force in pushing blacks out of Chicago. Instead, he summarizes the reasons for why blacks are exiting Chicago as follows: "They have been driven out of the city by segregation, gun violence, discriminatory policing, racial disparities in employment, the uneven quality of public schools and frustration at life in neighborhoods whose once-humming commercial districts have gone quiet…."
Actually, "gun violence," "discriminatory policing," and "once-humming commercial districts have gone quiet" are all part of urban crime. "Discriminatory policing" means the cops aren't around when you need them. And commercial districts "go quiet" when the middle class departs, leaving poor people who can't afford to support serious commerce.
Urban crime is a difficult subject to discuss for what it is in a political climate inclined to blame police for unequal law enforcement. But in the departure of middle class blacks from Chicago, we begin to get a sense of the challenge: violent crime in black urban areas tends to be carried out by poor kids. The victims tend to be middle-class blacks simply trying to lives their lives and go to work and school. In Chicago, middle-class blacks are voting with their feet, and increasingly they are outta there. 

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