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Street Gangs, Poverty And The Left


The best way to measure the sincerity of the left’s messianic mission to save the black poor from the damnation of America’s “vicious caste system of racism” is to examine how often they call for “discourse”, attempt to “raise consciousness”, and hold signs to battle the actual causes of poverty.

Considering that the answer is never, such an investigation might better contribute to the cause of tuning out unproductive, irritating voices the way a parent behind the wheel of a car ignores the petulant child in the backseat when he whines, for the fifteenth time in as many minutes, “Are we there yet?”

Whenever a reasonable observer of upward mobility offers measured criticism of the cultural norms within poor groups of people that sabotage opportunities for success, and keep people trapped within the isolation chamber of family breakdown, government dependency, and teen pregnancy, the political, academic, and journalistic left react with the predictable bromides and accusations of bigotry, “privilege”, and hatred for the poor. Congressman Paul Ryan, whose pigmentation is proof of his evil intentions, and Bill Cosby, Michelle Obama, and John McWhorter, whose skin tones…oh, wait nevermind, are not really providing experiential and evidential distinctions between the behavioral patterns most likely to result in poverty and those most likely to create self-reliance, they are “blaming the victims.”

Despite that such sanctimony depends upon sustained ignorance of elementary history, economics, and sociology, the resistance to blaming people one believes are “victims”, even if that belief is misguided and misinformed, is emotionally understandable. But what about blaming the culprits? The criminal offenders who, in a commitment to callousness and cruelty, exploit, rob, rape, and murder the poor, and do everything in their power to keep the streets of their neighborhoods barren, and the families who walk them miserable?

Well, that’s a problem too.

Domestic terrorist units

When it comes to urban planning and neighborhood development, “safety first” is more than a driver’s ed slogan. Without safety, there is no commerce, and without safety, there is no education. Street gangs transform the impoverished inner cities into warzones, and in doing so, not only inflict brutal pain and despair on their neighbors, but undermine any attempt at economic growth and communal uplift.

The appellation “street gang” sounds too innocuous to accurately depict their program of torture and torment. They are domestic terrorist units. They do not hesitate to spray crowded corners with bullets, intimidate witnesses into silence, and rule over their streets with the merciless violence and aggression of any warlord. They ply their trade by exploiting, and thereby expanding, the suffering of drug addicts, and they do not have the minimal level of humanity and decency that prevents most killers and thieves from harming children. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel hired hundreds of “safe passage workers” in 2013 to help the police monitor and supervise children walking to school – most of who were frightened that if their route required them to cross into rival territory, a domestic terrorist would beat, mug, or rape them. Street gang sadists have reduced themselves to systematically terrorizing children. There is no word but “evil” that adequately captures the comprehensive wickedness of the Crips, Bloods, Gangster Disciples, and other professional torturers, posing, with the help of pop culture, as hip rebels.

Modern, American domestic terrorists operate under a shield of protection crafted by the ignorance of the left. The Chicago Police Department estimates that eighty percent of its shootings are gang related. An intellectual mystery equally intractable as any crime scene is why no liberal shouter or politician who harangues everyone within ear shot about “saving just one child” with useless gun control regulations spends any time talking about the overwhelming majority of people who use guns to kill children.

The biggest threat to the black child on the city streets is not a “white Hispanic” weirdo like George Zimmerman, or even a bigot with a badge, but the black street gang member.

The biggest threat to the black child on the streets of Chicago, Los Angeles, Baltimore, or any other American city, is not a “white Hispanic” weirdo like George Zimmerman, or even a bigot with a badge, but the black street gang member. Liberals in the media hammered the public into the ground with daily exhortations for action during the Zimmerman fiasco, but rarely, if ever, mention the murderers who threaten and even assault children, not carrying Skittles, but book bags.

Worse than the liberal refusal to acknowledge the existence of the turf warriors, who viciously enforce color codes and territorial claims, is the implicit approval they give for them when they sentimentalize the issue, break out the world’s smallest violin, and discuss “strain theory” and the street gang as the predictable result of racism and income inequality.

The predator prepared to turn children into orphans and women into widows is simply a misunderstood “victim” of urban decay, unemployment, and unjust educational apartheid. If only the serial killers and crack dealers had decent “jobs training programs”, they would put down their toys, and begin to play nice.

The perpetuation of poverty

Moral relativism, masquerading as cheap sociology, leads to the sloppy and irresponsible conflation of violent offenders with the law abiding, hard working poor. If the gang banger is simply the result of “neoliberal capitalism”, how would the left account for the single mom working two jobs, the young man in high school who studies and applies for college, or anyone who grows up in the ghetto, black and poor, and resists the temptation to kill people?

In a rare moment of bipartisanship, Senators Mark Kirk (R) and Dick Durbin (D) of Illinois met with attorneys from the Department of Justice to request federal funding and personnel assistance in Chicago law enforcement’s struggle against the scourge of street gangs. They advocated a federal level crackdown on gang violence, understanding that the only way to deal with domestic terrorism is to eliminate it. Congressman Bobby Rush bashed the proposal and branded the Senators as “elitist, white boys.” Naturally, he punctuated his stupid and destructive remarks with a perfunctory demand for “jobs and education.”

There is little doubt or debate that the inner cities are in desperate need of better performing, high quality, and functional schools, and that they could use a heavy dosage of the jobs that come with commerce. Pointing out the obvious doesn’t make a race baiting Congressman heroic anymore than it makes a highly paid cable commentator intellectual. It does make the Congressman disingenuous and the cable commentator ignorant when it ignores or includes a defense of the domestic terrorist units dedicated to demolishing any improvement in education or development of business.

What sane entrepreneur would risk robbery, vandalism, or even death to open a store or office in gang territory? What good are excellent schools, staffed with brilliant teachers, if students are afraid to walk to class?

These questions, which exist among many, demonstrate that the street gang is not a product of poverty as much as it is the producer of it. The street gang criminal is not the victim of injustice as much as he is the cause of it. Anyone who refuses to acknowledge that elemental truth of urban America is tacitly endorsing the perpetuation of poverty and the continuation of injustice.

Some Democratic politicians in Chicago not only give implicit approval for the street gang, but benefit from the criminal domination of poor neighborhoods. In December of 2011, Chicago magazine reported on several city alderman, state legislators, and elected judges – all Democrats as the party holds the city’s politics, figuratively, and in this case, literally, at gun point – “routinely seek support from street gangs”, and once they have it, “quietly trade money and favors for mutual gain.”

The report, relying on several community activists, law enforcement agents, and unnamed city officials as sources, describes a “shadowy network of corruption” in which “gangs funnel their largess through opaque businesses, or front companies, and through under-the-table payments,” and also, with typical subtlety and civility, mobilize support for friendly politicians come election time.

The overwhelming majority of poor people in the inner cities – those who the left routinely lumps in with gangsters – would benefit from a more robust economy and more effective school system.

In return, “Some politicians ignore the gangs’ criminal activities. Some go so far as to protect gangs from the police, tipping them off to impending raids or to surveillance activities—in effect, creating safe havens in their political districts. And often they chafe at backing tough measures to stem gang activities, advocating instead for superficial solutions that may garner good press but have little impact.”

Sound familiar?

Although the report does not identify Rush, one cannot help but wonder what truly motivated his indignation when two Senators from his state proposed “tough measures to stem gang activities.”

Speculation aside, it is now easy to conclude that the Democratic Party and the liberal media and academy have forfeited any claim to the moral high ground on the issue of poverty in the inner cities, and as long as they continue to provide intellectual cover for the domestic terrorism that creates it, and in some cases, directly aid and abet its worst culprits, have no right to even enter the moral universe.

The overwhelming majority of poor people in the inner cities – those who the left routinely lumps in with gangsters – would benefit from a more robust economy and more effective school system. The drug dealing, drive by shooting terrorists who target the innocent do not need, or deserve, assistance form the welfare state, opportunities for employment, or pell grants. They deserve to feel the consequences of a State that finds a practical, feasible, and ethical way to exercise the advice of one of America’s greatest authors. Ernest Hemingway writes in his classic book of sports journalism and philosophy on bullfighting, Death In the Afternoon, that good people could cure most of the world’s social ills by grabbing their guns, and having a three day open season on bad people. We need policies which understand the menace gangs truly represent – and we’re not going to get it from policymakers who refuse to acknowledge this truth.

David Masciotra is a columnist with the Indianapolis Star. He has also written for the Daily Beast, the Atlantic, and Splice Today. He is the author of All That We Learned About Living: The Art and Legacy of John Mellencamp (forthcoming, University Press of Kentucky).