Showing posts with label white flight. Show all posts
Showing posts with label white flight. Show all posts

Sunday, January 6, 2013

A Few Notes On "The City" & Its Moral Problems

Winter has arrived and the northeastern US has entered its annual deep freeze. This is usually the time when I go into hibernation. I've never really been fond of the cold, but I've learned to appreciate winter more over the years. I noticed that I haven't written about "the city" or anything particularly urban lately. It seems most of my posts these days have been targeting the larger issues strictly regarding atheism and philosophy. But rest assured, issues regarding urban life still concern me.

When it comes to urban issues concerning New York I have always paid attention to the crime rate, and in particular, the homicide rate. In 2011, the last year which I have statistics available, New York City had  515 homicides and non-negligible manslaughters. This is more or less in the same range as the city experienced in the past 10 years. I have heard other cities like Detroit are experiencing record high murder rates that they haven't seen in 20 years. This is very disturbing. We've been hearing that violent crime in the US overall is on the decline, yet it appears there are pockets of the country bucking that trend.

The reality of the rise in violent crime largely has to do with areas of the country where the economy has struggled to recover from the economic downturn, and where the economy has been troubled for decades. Detroit in the US is synonymous with exactly what went wrong after WW2. The city's manufacturing based declined and it was never able to recover or successfully diversify its economy. Race riots made almost the entire white population to flee the suburbs, and the US by and large simply just let Detroit rot.

Many years ago I wrote about the hip hop culture's moral problems and I still stand by them today. I understand that for many urban black and Latino folks, times are hard and have been for years. But the crime problem we see is a case where they are largely cutting off their nose despite their face. Things are made worse when a culture gives up, and embraces and nurtures apathy as if it were a virtue. When the formal economy withered away, the drug economy came in to replace it. The very nature of the drug economy means that for some involved in it, it will lead to many incidents of violence. But is this true for all?

Well I can say that I have used illegal drugs many times in my life. I never once got arrested for it, even when I sold it. I have had drug dealers who were reasonably responsible people who were not the kind to get into violent episodes. Why is it that many people can use and even sell drugs without becoming violent? Why is it that others cannot separate violence from drugs?

As a moral thinker I do care about the clear moral implications concerning our violent culture. I don't think we can entirely blame the drug culture, although it is one of many components. Our declining manufacturing base, failed public schools and failed parenting are certainly to blame as well. The debate over whether we should legalize drugs, or at least some drugs, is forcing us to reconsider old beliefs. About half of all Americans believe marijuana should be legalized today, up from about 12 % in 1969. This is certainly a good trend, and I guarantee that much like with gay marriage, we will see in the future more and more states legalize it.

But the issue here is whether legalizing marijuana, or all drugs, would decrease crime and in particular, violent crime. Well it would certainly reduce our prison population, and reduce annual arrests by several hundred thousand. These criminal records act as scarlet letters on many young men, ruining their chances of getting a job and getting careers as they get older. Plus when you arrest many young non-violent drug offenders and put them into prison with hardened criminals, they are more likely to come out in a worse condition than when they went in, and this exacerbates the problem of violent crime. I certainly support the full legalization of marijuana as I know it will reduce prison populations, stop negative cycles of criminality, and end the racist disproportional drug arrests of minorities over whites.

Besides issues with drugs and how its illegality contributes to violent crime, I largely blame America's problem with violence to be a moral defect. Most of our violent crimes are being committed by black and Latino men, who are cloaked in a thug culture that celebrates all the most destructive things as virtues to be aspired to. As long as this persists, any success gained creating jobs and legalizing drugs will be mitigated. I've said it before and I will say it again, unless there is a moral shift amongst our inner city black and Latino populations that learns to appreciate human life and recognizes the harm in the "thug life", we will continue to see them kill themselves, disproportionately fill our prisons and be under represented in our colleges.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Moving to New York...

It's amazing how many people want to move to New York, the big exciting city. I meet so many people from other countries, including tourists, people here doing internships, as well as people from around the U.S. who come here and fall in love with the city and want to stay. I remember not that long ago, just back in the 90s when all I heard was negative things being said about New York. The crime, the pollution, the noise, the small apartments, foreigners! I still remember a time when people wanted to move out of New York so bad. Most of my white friends growing up moved out to suburbia during the 90s. I stayed and I'm glad I did.

I'm worried that my area will become too nice an as result, completely unaffordable. So what happened was the exact opposite of what the fears of my white friend's parents were worrying about. The areas got better instead of worse, crime went down instead of up. As a result of those white families moving out, the city became more ethnically diverse. This is a classic case of white flight: fear that minorities will bring crime up and reduce property values cause whites to flee to suburbia, resulting in those neighborhoods becoming much less white.

Now however, whites are moving back into New York, drawn to it by the culture and diversity, that was a result of earlier generations of whites moving out because of the increasing diversity. Irony works in mysterious ways.

I can definitely understand why one would want to move to NY. If I grew up anywhere else I'd want to live here too. Suburbia is boring, as is the country life. Nice places to visit, but not to live. So what does NY have to offer a newcomer? Nightlife, culture, history, and an incredible cityscape to envelope you. Market rate rents are atrocious, however. All the new construction is luxury apartments or condos designed and built for the upper middle class and the rich. I've long worried about the fate of the middle class in NY.

NY does offer the chance to live in a secular society unlike many parts of rural America. I couldn't believe how religious some people were when I was down south. They use religion like a crutch to cope with daily life. I can see the glow in their eyes, when they speak of the God that is out there who loves them personally, and cares about their suffering and wants them to be happy. These are all the things that make religion so appealing to its victims. You don't meet a whole lot of those kind of people in NY. The ones you do see who are like that in NY are usually shouting from a street corner or a subway train, while panhandling.

I'm glad I live in NY, and my area, Queens, is urban and diverse. It's not Manhattan, but still no doubt the city. I can only hope I live here for a long time.

Monday, May 31, 2010

What's my title?

I think one annoying thing about blogging is trying to find an appropriate title for every blog. Sometime I just cant think of one that suites the blog's content or I come up with the title first and then in the blog I end up migrating away from the topic in the title.

One thing I regret is not blogging before and throwing away my all journals. I should have wrote them online so they'd be up today. I also should have written more about my life growing up and my experiences instead of just about all my anger and fears. I guess that's what was on my mind.

I like to read memoirs of people about their times growing up and of the experiences during the times and places they take a place in. I like of those movies that take place years ago. I grew up in the 1990s and should have documented more of my experiences. I witnessed a dramatic demographic shift in my neighborhood from being mostly white Irish/Polish to turning Puerto Rican, then Ecuadorian, Peruvian and Asian. The Irish kids that I knew growing up started leaving one by one during the 90s. Many of them moved out to Long Island. I remember hearing their parents complain about how the schools here were terrible and talks of moving to nicer (i.e. whiter) areas were frequent as the immigrant population began moving in from Asia and Latin America. There were Puerto Ricans here as long as I can remember, but even they too started moving out of the neighborhood to the suburbs.

I used to think that Queens was getting bad. Now 20 years later that couldn't be further from the truth. White people are moving back into the area as the gentrification has spread from Manhattan. Crime keeps dropping and quality of life keeps rising. I hardly ever worry about crime anymore. I wonder if all those Irish kids who moved out of the neighborhood years ago wish they were back where they grew up. There are benefits to living close to the city. One is not having a car. Another is being able to walk to the supermarket and stores for what you need. The most important benefit is being close to the entertainment of the big city and not having to live in a dinky boring suburb.

Seeing all the positive changes to my area has made me realize what a great asset I have right over my head. I don't think anyone realized it back in the 90s when people were still worried about crime and were thinking of moving out of the city. I'm surprised that my mom didn't move out somewhere else. She grew up in the suburbs and moved to the city, which is the opposite of what most people do.


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