clap clap blog: we have moved
Wednesday, June 18, 2003
In regards to the riots in Benton Harbor, MI: the article here (though not so much the one on CNN.com right now) makes it sound like the crazy black people just went nuts when the officers happened to chase this guy who happened to crash and die.
What they don't mention is that Benton Harbor, in addition to being 91% black, is one of the poorest communities in the nation (see unemployment stats here--yep, 27%!), and lies across the river from the predominantly white, pretty affluent lakeshore town of St. Joseph (2% unemployment in the link above, and a median family income of $51k in 2000 versus Benton Harbor's $17k in 2000). There's a good summary of a book written about this particular division at the Christian Science Monitor site, and it's worth pointing out that one of the things sparking the riots is the issue of police extending chases from St. Joe into Benton Harbor and the problems that causes.
If you have a fairly affluent town populated by people of one race situated right next to a really poor town populated by people of another race, you better be real careful in your race relations, or--well, or you're going to have riots. I think it's clear the police department, despite the "Gee, what did we do?" attitude expressed in the AP article, has a least a small bit of the blame for this, and while I'm not exactly the kind of person who's going to be pro-rioting (I'm barely pro-marching), it's hard to resist the "Well, duh" reaction in this case. While you can certainly blame the residents for the violence, you're gonna have to put that 27% unemployment rate on someone else, and I can't help but think, being the bleeding-heart liberal that I am, this statistic reveals perhaps another cause of the rioting.
In other words: don't pay too much attention to any report of the riots that doesn't mention St. Joe. It's a good third of the story here.
More on this later, perhaps--gotta do work right now.