Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Mr. Kane, I know the answer !

In the wake over the midafternoon shooting of Paul Huggins, Eugene Kane asks where the anger is when a black person is senselessly killed in broad daylight in Milwaukee ?

I think I know.

It is largely on the political right. People like Sykes and Wagner have been up in arms over inner city violence for quite some time. Kane's colleague, Patrick McIlheran, has been all over it. Even I have written about it in the paper and on this blog.

The reason that there is little or no response on the left is not because liberals like violence in the streets. It is because addressing the problem directly, i.e., by acknowledging that urban violence is not simply a reflexive response to conditions imposed from the outside that the affected communities can do little about, "feels racist." It seems like "blaming the victim."

So they either snipe at the responses to violent crime (police brutality! veiled racism!) or call for things that you and I and our grandchildren and theirs will never see (an end to inequality!). This amounts to no response.

And that's where real hostility to the victim lies. There is relegating poor black people to life in a shooting gallery. Paul Huggins did not have to stop at 43rd and Capitol (and if you believe, as I do, that this particular neighborhood is not that bad, pick another). Neither do I. Other people don't have a choice.

Kane writes:

I don't play the usual game in town that calls for quick response to a white death while a black death just reaffirms the black community's violent dysfunction. I also don't pay much attention to frightened suburbanites who vow never to visit the central city because of reported violence.

Fair enough. But what game do you play and how is it going to make a difference?


Anonymous said...

Actually, I think that the disconnect in the conversation is that the right mistakes being outraged for addressing the problem. Declaring that things should be different; that people should have better morals may feel good, but it gets nothing done.

Everytime someone talks about what could be actually done to address the problem, they are denounced as a liberal and told that they are excusing the wrongdoers.

The typical response to this is that we are lenient on criminal behavior and we need more people doing more time in more prisons. But, no serious person actually sees this as a solution: its too expensive; it would devastate the community (some people who engage in crimes also support children, etc) and the fact is that we already have very high incarceration rates.

I suggest that what you dismiss as liberal guilt and inaction is really a public policy oriented attempt to discuss comprehensive ways of addressing complex problems.

Rick Esenberg said...

I don't entirely disagree. I think outrage is a necessary, but insufficient step. I think tough law enforcement is a necessary, but insufficient second step. Part of the problem that I have with the left is that they seek to block the first two steps.

Addressing "root causes" come next and I do not kid myself into thinking that won't cost money. But where I depart from the left here is that I do not believe that any amount of money will help unless it is directed at, or consistent with, a change in culture. If we are really going to punt on the idea that "people should have better morals," we are lost. Detroit is our future.

Anonymous said...

We are not going to punt the idea. But, its just an idea. To ruminate that where violence and degradation are concentrated and, to some degree accepted, those folks have to feel and act differently - NO ONE disagrees.

The real question is how do we as a society take action that fosters that change. That's the discussion usually derided as liberal's excusing it. And you know what I mean. An attempt to explain why is attacked as excusing rather than explaining.

And, rick, while, as a screaming lib, I think your blog is the smartest conservative wis blog, gimme a break about the "left" has tried to block tough on crime, etc. steps. The fact that the criminal code has consistantly become tougher and tougher, sentences longer and longer - has all happened with Dem support (and that's who I assume you mean by the "left") and leadership for almost 40 years. Its the one area where there is little disagreement in the political world.

And no one disagrees that a "change in culture" is necessary where violence is an accepted part of life. It's a tautology. The key is translating into into concrete policy without some yelling OMIGOD they're exusing evil doers, more outrage instead!

And my problem with conservative pols is two-fold: 1 - anything nonpunitive is labled as excusing violence and as general liberal silliness -no matter how actually effective a specific proposal may be; if it don't kick ass, it ain't happening.

2 - the right simply lies about the criminal justice system. It has grown consistantly more severe for decades and decades. Regardless of whether we think this is good or bad policy, its accurate history and the right simply pretends that it hasn't happens and lies to the public about how the system actually works currently.

Rick Esenberg said...

You may be surprised that I agree with a lot of what you say, particularly the part about screaming OMIGOD and doing nothing else. Conservatives - at least those who profess to be religious conservatives - do not have to agree with liberal approaches to poverty but they cannot be indifferent to it.

I do agree that the criminal code has become more severe - sometimes to good result and sometimes not - although I think this has often been over sunstantial opposition from the left and we still have problems in the city with a substantial part of the political leadership who seems to think that law enforcement is the problem.

But there is a conservative narrative about and approach to urban problems that goes beyond what you'll hear from Mark Belling (you will hear about it from Sykes). You may not like it (I suspect that you don't) but I think it goes beyond what you describe.

Terrence Berres said...

I wondered where the anger was back when Mr. Kane described the death of Charlie Young Jr. as resulting from "a neighborhood beating that went horribly wrong."