Monday, April 11, 2016

The Cause of Urban Ghetto Violence Cannot Be Placed on a Failure of the Black Community

There are many, especially Republicans, who criticize Blacks for the violence in the urban ghetto community, which mostly falls on themselves.  The point is either made or implied that it has something to do with Black culture, that it is a failing of Black mothers to raise their children properly, or that there are too few two-parent households.

While there can be no arguing against the facts of ghetto violence, the causal connections often made have only superficial merit.  If one looks at urban slums/ghettos around the world, one finds gangs, drugs, and violence.  It makes no difference if one is in Asia, Africa, Europe, Los Angeles or New York City.  

Regardless what the race, color, or ethnicity of the urban ghetto dweller is … the incidence of violence in the urban ghetto is a universal fact.  It is instead the crushing, de-humanizing impact of urban ghetto poverty that creates a seedbed for violence.

In most global urban ghettos, the poor are also predominantly immigrants or migrants.  One could even argue that Black Americans are still to a large extent immigrants (forced) who have not been successfully assimilated into the larger culture.  This aggravates the crushing impact of the urban ghetto because people also feel, with good reason, that they are not welcomed, that they have no place in the larger society.

That the combination of poverty and urbanization should produce such an outcome should not be surprising.  And the impact of globalization has actually made it worse.  (See “Gangs in the Global City,” a conference and soon to be book published by the University of Illinois Press.)

Maya Angelou, in her book Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now, says that the children of the ghetto are the way they are because they do not experience caring, self-respect, and courtesy in the home.  That has much validity, but that experience itself is in turn the product of poverty and the soul-crushing life of the urban ghetto.

I’m not going to go into the sociological reasons why the combination of poverty and urban ghetto produce violence.  Untold books and articles have been written on the subject.  The reasons are well known and the facts inescapable.  Yet we as a society, and all societies around the world, choose to point the finger at the people themselves and/or cultures rather than the situations the poor find themselves in because that is what is convenient for us.  

If it wasn’t the fault of the poor, if the problem wasn’t self-inflicted, then the larger society would have both a social and a moral obligation to correct the situation, to remove or at least ameliorate the causal factors.  But we do not want to drastically change the way our societies are structured, the way resources are distributed by government, the deeply embedded racism against the ethnic poor, and the pervasive discrimination directed towards all poor.  And so life for the poor continues more or less as it always has, even while receiving meager assistance in the U.S. and other countries from the government.

This is just one more example of the impact of the lack of humanity in our society  (see my post, “Healing Our Nation, Healing Ourselves”).  And our nation, as well as the rest of the world, will not move forward unless the essence of humanity is rediscovered by us humans, individually and collectively.