Susan Ives provides communications services to many nonprofit, public interest organizations. She previously served as Vice President for the Trust for Public Land. She speaks and writes about parks and conservation, environmental justice and sustainable cities.
Williams has selectively chosen the evidence to make his case and to my mind has failed.
A predictor of crime isn’t blackness or liberal politics. It’s poverty. What the cities cited have in common isn’t Black Democratic mayors it’s having a significant percentage of the population living below the poverty line. When industry leaves town—whether to Asia, Mexico, Korea or Utah, people lose their jobs; tax revenues shrink; schools decline; public services—from medical and mental health services to after school programs to drug treatment to garbage pick up to snow removal are cut. That’s a perfect storm for anger, alienation, hopelessness, and crime.
That poor black people are more often victimized by other poor black people is obvious not the least because there are few rich white people around. Those people able to move out of dangerous urban neighborhoods leave—aka “white flight.” Real estate “red lining,” which draws racial boundaries around small towns and suburbs, abetted by prejudicial mortgage lending effectively transformed struggling cities to permanent ghettos. Unsurprisingly, black people inhabiting crumbling cities elected black council members and mayors to preside over the ruins. To say that some politicians (including black politicians) and their Democratic administrations are/were corrupt or inept—is to state the obvious. To say that cities are on the ropes because of black mayors is specious, and at best crypto racist.
Americans largely prospered in the latter 20th century but black Americans prospered far less. In California, where I live, the state now spends more than $10 billion a year (yes, that’s a B) on prisons. This is five times more than it spends on public education. Building the world’s largest prison industry has bankrupted California. Believe me, this industry didn’t arise out of the “progressive agenda” or the failures of “Democratic and black politicians that are beholden to and serve the interests of the powerful vested interest groups, such as labor unions, teachers unions and assorted liberals.”
Williams says that “political power doesn’t necessarily translate into economic power.” No, Walter, it doesn’t.
In case you haven’t noticed it’s economic power that translates into political power. This is why there are more and more poor people; why they are likely to stay poor; and why many American cities are increasingly unlivable.