Last September a young black man was beaten to death on the south side of Chicago, and this violence was caught on a cell phone camera and seen around the world. This was not good PR for President Obama, especially just before he was headed to Copenhagen to woo the International Olympic Committee to bring the games to Chicago in 2016. So he sent his secretary of education, Arne Duncan, and other big wigs to Chicago to show that his administration took this violence seriously, and most importantly that they cared.
I heard Mr. Duncan on NPR at the time talk about what needed to be done to stem this all too prevalent violence, and he mentioned several things including job training programs, mentoring, and other such community organization kind of things. What stood out and infuriated me at the time was that he didn’t mention fathers or intact families. It never occurred to this former head of the Chicago City Schools that the breakdown of the traditional two-parent, two gender need I say, family contributes to youth violence in the inner city, let alone is a primary cause of it.
The way I felt that day listening to the radio in my car came back to me as I read an excellent piece by Heather Mac Donald in the also excellent City Journal called, “Chicago’s Real Crime Story: Why decades of community organizing haven’t stemmed the city’s youth violence.” Lest anyone accuse Ms. Mac Donald of being some religious right wing nut, she is a self-affirmed atheist. What she is not, however, is someone who is blind to the facts.
[A] critical blindness links Obama’s activities on the South Side during the 1980s and the murder of Derrion Albert in 2009. Throughout his four years working for “change” in Chicago’s Roseland and Altgeld Gardens neighborhoods, Obama ignored the primary cause of their escalating dysfunction: the disappearance of the black two-parent family. Obama wasn’t the only activist to turn away from the problem of absent fathers, of course; decades of failed social policy, both before and after his time in Chicago, were just as blind. And that myopia continues today, guaranteeing that the current response to Chicago’s youth violence will prove as useless as Obama’s activities were 25 years ago.
One year out of college, Barack Obama took a job as a community organizer, hoping for an authentic black experience that would link him to the bygone era of civil rights protest. Few people know what a community organizer is—Obama didn’t when he decided to become one—yet the term seduces the liberal intelligentsia with its aura of class struggle and agitation against an unjust establishment. Saul Alinsky, the self-described radical who pioneered the idea in Chicago’s slaughterhouse district during the Depression, defined community organizing as creating “mass organizations to seize power and give it to the people.” Alinsky viewed poverty as a political condition: it stemmed from a lack of power, which society’s “haves” withhold from the “have-nots.” A community organizer would open the eyes of the disenfranchised to their aggrieved status, teaching them to demand redress from the illegitimate “power structure.”
She points out that there is a deep irony in that the “power structure” in Chicago happens to be predominantly black. But so deep is the antipathy and grievance in the modern liberal mind toward white America and it’s less than flattering history of abuse toward black people, that no amount of contrary evidence will sway their fundamental beliefs. Not even 40 plus years of utterly futile community organizing and government policy could sway them.
It is fascinating to see how far the modern liberal mind will go to absolve individuals of any personal responsibility for their actions because their worldview will simply not allow it. To them, individuals are basically powerless before the societal structures they inhabit, especially and likely exclusively minorities. Yet these societal structures seem never to include the two-parent family and absent fathers. That practically every instance of inner city violence is a result of youths from broken families is irrelevant to the left.
Ms. Mac Donald points out that youth violence is definitely correlated to race. It is in fact “disproportionately a black problem and, to a lesser extent, a Hispanic one.” I live in a fairly diverse community about 30 miles outside the city of Chicago. Recently I picked up my daughter from her high school for a doctor’s appointment. When I went into the attendance office I was shocked, yes shocked, to see a piece of paper taped to the counter that had the numbers of violent acts at the school by race, and this at a public school. And guess what it said. Believe it or not, Asians had zero violent incidents. Whites a very small number. Hispanics a lager number, and black by far the largest. This is consistent with what she found in the city of Chicago:
Black juveniles accounted for 78 percent of all juvenile arrests between 2003 and 2008 in Chicago; Hispanics were 18 percent, and whites, 3.5 percent, of those arrests. . . . In Chicago, blacks, at least 35 percent of the population, commit 76 percent of all homicides; whites, about 28 percent of the population, commit 4 percent, and Hispanics, 30 percent of the population, commit 19 percent. The most significant difference between these demographic groups is family structure. In Cook County—which includes both Chicago and some of its suburbs and probably therefore contains a higher proportion of middle-class black families than the city proper—79 percent of all black children were born out of wedlock in 2003, compared with 15 percent of white children. Until that gap closes, the crime gap won’t close, either.
Yet modern liberals are loathe to admit any such thing. Empirical data cannot break through the ossified ideology of the committed leftist. It is tragic, sickening and heartbreaking. Forty plus years of evidence means nothing to these people. Back in the early 80s when Barack Obama started his community organizer career, a young Chicago basketball star was gunned down in cold blood. The same hand wringing, angry meetings, community frustration and local government promises to do something went on then as today when poor Derrion Albert was clubbed to death. As long as the modern liberal worldview is pervasive in those communities and among their leaders, 30 years from now we will see the same lament.