The recent events in Ferguson, MO, in which a “gentle giant” was shot and killed after assaulting a policeman, leading to demonstrations and riots, brought back to me memories of the August 1965 Watts riots in Los Angeles, which likewise developed in the aftermath of assaults on a policeman after a young black man was arrested for drunken driving. The Watts incident led to arrests but no deaths at the scene; but riots, looting and torching of buildings, and general mayhem over 6 days resulted, leading to 34 deaths, over a thousand injuries, and over a thousand buildings damaged or destroyed.
I was living in West Los Angeles that summer, and my mother, hearing the news about blacks shooting at random in neighborhoods and on the streets and freeways, became fearful about the safety of her octogenarian uncle, who lived close to the Watts area. So my cousin and I borrowed a gun and a rifle from a friend who owned a gun store (the first time in my life I had had a gun) and drove into the area and brought my mother’s uncle to our house, until relative calm had returned.
On our way to pick up Uncle Joe, we drove through Inglewood, CA. I was born and went to elementary school in Inglewood, and used to bike there frequently to visit friends and my grandparents. Unfortunately, since then this nice, orderly city has become plagued with homicides, rapes, assaults, auto theft and arson, and was depicted as a stereotype of a dysfunctional ghetto in the 1991 movie, Grand Canyon.
When I started working at Marquette University in 1967, at a time of civil rights marches and demonstrations and riots, the exodus of whites to the suburbs in great numbers had already begun. My wife and I, in hopes of helping to stem prevailing practices of discrimination in housing, took part in systematic undercover testing of realtors, and were successful in recording incidents of “steering,” for which some realty companies were later indicted or fined. And we took advantage of one of the departing white families to purchase their beautiful 1890s house near to the campus.
But within a few years, numerous challenges arose—our house and garage broken into and ransacked, thefts of bicycles, murders on our block and adjacent blocks, drug traffic and prostitution, two muggings by African Americans on myself (spurring me to take a self-defense course, and purchase mace and pepper spray), and assaults on our children.
We had two years of respite during the 1980s living in a German city, with the help of Fulbright research and teaching fellowships. The respite included rare news of crimes, being able to walk safely at night, and even leaving doors and bikes unlocked.
Returning from my second Fulbright, however, I consulted with the police department about crime statistics, and moved to what they characterized as one of the safest neighborhoods in the city, still in biking distance from the campus. Here we found a great integrated neighborhood, with the best sense of community I have ever encountered in any neighborhood. Nevertheless, here again, both our house and garage were broken into and ransacked, bikes stolen, and one summer afternoon an AA hoodie broke into my house one afternoon and held a knife to my neck for money (I subsequently installed air conditioning, so that I wouldn’t have to leave screen doors open on hot days). Things like this still happen, but with the help of a Yahoo internet group during the last seven years, we have been able to offer some timely warnings and often curb suspicious activities in the bud.
According to the 2010 National Crime Victimization Survey, the number of violent attacks on whites by blacks, who constitute 13 percent of the population, vastly exceeds the number of violent attacks of whites on blacks; and while there were 13,000 black-on-white rapes and 29,000 black-on-white robberies in 2010, the amount of white-on-black rapes and violent robberies was negligible. Thus many of our cities with large black populations have become dysfunctional areas where it is risky to go out at night, even to put the car in the garage.
I discussed the issue of “black crime” in my 1999 book, Politically Incorrect Dialogues: Topics not Discussed in Polite Circles. My conclusion was, and still is, that what we call “black crime” has nothing to do with race, but (as many others have noted) with fatherless families—more than half of black families being fatherless. In my state, Wisconsin, only a quarter of black children live in a two-parent family. What can be done to salvage American cities?
“Welfare reform” by the federal government in 1996 under President Clinton involved transferring block grants to the states, which were supposed to figure out how to reduce welfare fraud, promote jobs and stable families, and reduce births by single mothers—an impressive sociological challenge. Wisconsin and other states have launched “workfare” schemes that used various formulas to attach welfare payments to work or search for work, but these programs were considered unfair by the Obama administration and sharply restricted in 2012.
In the meantime, suburbs are growing, becoming new quasi-cities, often with economic or cultural disincentives against the invasion of low-income non-whites. And a new segregation is being imposed on many American cities.
Are the protesters and marchers in the recent demonstrations from the suburbs?—are they the ones who have fled from the city? Or are they from relatively peaceful university towns, like Berkeley, CA? If so, there is an element of hypocrisy, a lack of authenticity, as they protest so loudly. Those who are self-segregated are in no position to make judgments about complex incidents of law-enforcement in volatile urban environments. And, needless to say, the irrational acts of blacks who create war zones rather than neighborhoods, is a complementary form of self-segregation.
Editor’s note: Image above is taken from the August 12, 1965 Los Angeles Times newspaper.