National Opinions

Change of behavior by blacks urgent to fight urban crime

Two women cry outside the Stroger Hospital in Chicago on Aug. 5, after they were asked to leave due to overwhelming crowds of family and friends of shooting victims.
Two women cry outside the Stroger Hospital in Chicago on Aug. 5, after they were asked to leave due to overwhelming crowds of family and friends of shooting victims. Associated Press

During the first weekend of August, 12 Chicagoans were shot dead, and 62 others were shot and wounded, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Before that mayhem, 1,718 Chicagoans had been shot since the beginning of the year, and 306 murdered. Adding to this tragedy is the fact that Chicago’s clearance rate is less than 15 percent.

That means that in more than 85 percent of Chicago’s homicides, no suspect is charged. Chicago is by no means unique in this lawlessness. Detroit, Baltimore, Philadelphia, St. Louis and some other major cities share high rates of homicides.

Also, there are sky-high rates of burglaries, rapes and property destruction. The schools are notoriously bad. City budgets face shortfalls. Residents deal with deteriorating services. All of this causes mass exoduses by their most capable people.

Ordinary decency demands that something be done to address these horrible conditions. White liberals, black politicians and sports figures focus most of their attention on what the police do, but how relevant is that to the overall tragedy?

According to Washington Post data, as of July 9, 626 people had been shot and killed by police this year. Of that number, 114 were black. Last year, 987 people were shot and killed by police; 223 were black.

To put police shootings in perspective, in Chicago alone in 2017, there were 674 homicides, almost 80 percent of whose victims were black. It would appear that if one is truly concerned about black deaths, shootings by police should figure way down on one’s list — which is not to excuse bad behavior by some officers.

Would getting more blacks and Democrats in political office help? It turns out that of the Chicago City Council’s 50 aldermen, 48 are Democrats, and 19 are black.

In fact, most of the cities where large segments of their black citizenry live under horrible conditions have been controlled by Democrats for nearly a half-century, and there are many blacks who are chiefs of police, superintendents of schools and members of city councils. If Democratic and black control meant anything, these cities would be paradises.

How helpful to these desperate black communities are the efforts of so many black politicians to focus on allegations about President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia?

More taxpayer money could not fix the problems of these communities. Over the past 50 years, more than $16 trillion has been spent on poverty programs. The majority of those programs have simply made poverty more comfortable.

What’s needed most is to get poor people to change their behavior. Chief among the modifications is reducing female-headed households. Female-headed households produce most of our prison inmates, the highest crime rates and disproportionate numbers of high school dropouts and suicides. These devastating factors are far beyond the capacity of Washington to fix.

The only people who can fix these problems are black people themselves. Support should be given to police to stop criminals. Nongovernmental local groups should be encouraged to play greater roles.

It’s a challenge, but keep in mind that black people had the intestinal fortitude to lead the world’s greatest civil rights movement through some very dark days. I believe that we’re up to the challenge.

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University.

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