John McWhorter at The Root has an interesting piece on the recent flash mobs in Philadelphia. Rather than viewing the violence as a result of poor parenting or institutional racism, McWhorter sees the root of the problem as the relationship between Black communities and the police in the war on drugs:
Cops trawling their neighborhoods and housing projects, pounding on doors, interrogating people, pushing some against walls. Some of the cops are bad ones, hurting people for no reason. And all of the cops, good and bad, are there because they are assigned to fight the “war on drugs.” It’s their job, and sometimes they catch people selling, sure. But that requires spending vast amounts of time just being there. Bothering people.What makes these mob kids mad at white people is not something as distant and cerebral as “institutional racism.” It’s that most of their interactions with white people are edgy, starkly real, face-to-face conflicts with cops. If the cops had no reason to be in their neighborhoods, new generations of black teens would grow up with no reason to think of whites as an enemy.
According to McWhorter, legalization of drugs could pave the way for better race relations in the cities.I disagree. The end of the drug trade won’t dissolve youth gangs, create jobs or turn young people from crime. In the social order of American cities today, aggressive policing of inner city youth isn’t a bug; it’s a feature. Kids without fathers, skills, guidance, work, prospects in life, positive role models or strong religious values are going to have trouble with cops whether or not they are selling drugs. Policing under these conditions won’t always be culturally sensitive or even just; that’s a regrettable but inevitable consequence of human nature. Legalizing drugs won’t change any of this. Drug gangs will shift to selling whatever drugs are still illegal, to illegal sales of newly legal drugs to underage kids, or to other illegal activities like loansharking, protection rackets and burglary. The police will still be in their faces, and the issues will still be there.