Actually, Many ‘Inner Cities’ Are Doing Great

NOTE:  When Trump was doing his "Outreach To My Black Friends" campaign, he often declared that America's Inner Cities were disaster areas, full of crime, drugs, rapists and murderers.  Now Washington, D.C. is not your typical American city but we do have "inner city" neighborhoods.  But as I've traveled around D.C. what I've noticed is that there seems to be more life, more activity, more signs of renewal and improvement than I've ever seen in my 40 years here.  I recall when 14th. Street, H Street and 7th Street were burnt out hulks following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in April of 1968.   Today they are thriving.  Sure, the rest of the city is undergoing what I can only describe as some hell-bent-for-leather drive to construct condos, office buildings, shops, restaurants and all sorts of other stuff on every square foot of vacant land that isn't owned by the Federal Government.  Now I don't have any facts about how the rest of America's inner cities are doing, but here's a piece that sheds some light on what's really going on. 

Emily Badger
Oct. 11, 2016
New York Times

To hear Donald J. Trump tell it, America’s “inner cities” are on fire. They’re “a disaster education-wise, job-wise, safety-wise, in every way possible,” he declared in this week’s presidential debate.
“You walk down the street,” Mr. Trump said in his first debate with Hillary Clinton, “you get shot.”
It often sounds as if he is describing the Bronx in the 1970s, and not American cities like New York and Washington that today surround his own real estate projects.
But that’s the power of this perception. The phrase “inner city” is often used to suggest that the historical image and the modern place are one and the same — or even that the “inner city” is still a meaningfully identifiable place at all, with clearly implied demographics (black, poor) and connotations (violence, decay). It still evokes the particular context when the phrase became popular in the 1960s and ’70s.
In reality, the central neighborhoods of many major American cities are thriving. A recent analysis by researchers at the Federal Housing Finance Agency found that home values had risen faster in the heart of big cities than anywhere else in the country over the last 25 years, a sign of their turnaround and a trend Mr. Trump, as a real estate developer, is likely to be aware of.
In Washington (home to his newest project, in the Old Post Office building), the coveted neighborhoods right around its metro stops are growing whiter, wealthier and more educated. The same stretch of the Bronx that was on fire in the 1970s is now home to half-million-dollar ranch houses and tidy lawns.

That’s to say nothing of violent crime, which has fallen precipitously since the 1990s all across the country. Though homicide rates are up over the past year in places like Chicago, American cities on the whole are far safer than they were in the 1970s.
Over this same time, blacks and the poor have been moving in large numbers to the suburbs. Today, more of metropolitan America’s poor live in the suburbs than in cities. Chicago, frequently mentioned by Mr. Trump, lost 17 percent of its black population from 2000 to 2010 alone. Nationwide, a majority of blacks in large metropolitan areas now live in the suburbs, a huge demographic shift, particularly among the black middle class.
And as they have moved out, in some gentrifying neighborhoods, the rich have been moving in.
“Inner city,” in short, is imprecise in describing today’s urban reality. It captures neither the true geography of poverty or black America, nor the quality of life in many communities in central cities. But politically, its 1970s-era meaning lingers.
“I think it’s actually very useful, and it’s useful as a synonym for ‘black,’” said N. D. B. Connolly, a historian at Johns Hopkins University who never uses the phrase himself. It doesn’t matter, he says, that the term as Mr. Trump uses it is no longer demographically accurate.

“The point is, it doesn’t have to be, because what it does is it conjures a narrative about what happened in America during and after the 1960s,” Professor Connolly said. “The inner city is the place that burned when King was assassinated. It was Watts. It was the place Ronald Reagan had to try to conduct the war on drugs.”
The phrase can also imply, Professor Connolly argues, that the problems of “inner cities” are of their own making — and are not the result of decades of policies that withheld mortgages, abetted discrimination or undermined schools. It might be more accurate to call them “disinvested neighborhoods.” That language acknowledges that society actively chose to withhold investment from these places (but that not all urban neighborhoods suffered that fate). Or “neighborhoods of concentrated poverty” might be a better phrase: If what we really want to talk about is deep poverty, this recognizes that it can be found anywhere, whether in rural Appalachia, suburbia or Detroit.
Mr. Trump, to be fair, is far from alone in using “inner city” this way. Two years ago, it got the current House speaker, Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, in trouble, when members of the Congressional Black Caucus accused him of dog-whistling in comments on the “inner-city” culture of men who don’t work. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont also talked about “inner cities,” in trying to make the case for investing in them. President Obama has deployed the phrase himself. Just a few weeks ago, at the dedication of the new National Museum of African American History and Culture, he said, “A museum alone will not alleviate poverty in every inner city or every rural hamlet.”
In invoking the phrase like that, the president isn’t using it as a synonym for all black experience, the way Mr. Trump was accused of doing. (Many of the “inner city” comments Sunday night came in response to a black questioner at the town-hall-style debate — who did not ask anything related to the topic.)
But in any context, it is hard to shake the phrase’s association with an era when American cities looked very different from the way they do today.
“It’s just a wrong term to use descriptively, proscriptively,” Professor Connolly said. “All it does is reach the ears of white voters in a particular way.”
NOTE: So much for The Donald's analysis of America's Inner City Neighborhoods. 


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