Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Blogger Candidate Forum: Carnage?

Supreme Court confirmation hearing of Judge Neil Gorsuch
Hello Everyone:

Time once again for Blogger Candidate Forum.  More on the confirmation hearing of Judge Neil Gorsuch.  So far, not much in the way of bombshell revelations or fiery exchanges.  The most heated exchange, if you call it that, took place yesterday, between Minnesota Senator Al Franken (D-MN) and Judge Gorsuch over a case involving a frost bitten truck driver and another exchange with ranking member California Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) over abortion.  One telling question came courtesy of Senator Jeff Flake's son, when he asked Judge Gorsuch whether he would prefer to fight 100 duck-sized horses or one horse-sized duck?  Blogger thinks the point of the question was to get to know Judge Gorsuch the person, not the federal judge.  Blogger kind of wonders if Judge Grouch's answers are sincere or specifically intended to secure his seat on the Supreme Court bench.  His answers sound a little too neat.  However, bigly barring any shocking revelations, Judge Neil Gorsuch will take his seat.  Now, on to today's subject, American carnage.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
In his inauguration speech, President Donald Trump painted a grim picture of American cities.  The image he painted was that of a war zone with bullets flying everywhere, criminal undocumented immigrants roam free, single mothers and their children living in never ending poverty.  He called it "carnage."  John Eligon, in his New York Times article "Trump's Vision of 'Carnage' Misses Complex Reality of Many Cities," reported that at a January gathering of Republicans, "Mr. Trump perpetuated this vision-'carnage' is what he calls it-when he incorrectly told a gathering of Republicans...that Philadelphia's murder rate had increased over the last year."  He also took aim at his usual favorite urban target, Chicago, asking What the hell is going on?

Chicago Theater
Chicago, Illinois

What the hell is going on, Mr. President?  What is going is your dark over generalization does not even come close to the realities of urban American.  The dropping crime rates, rising populations, and growing innovation, cities are prospering, albeit unevenly.

Isaiah Thomas told Mr. Eligon during a tour of his predominantly African American neighborhood,

Our streets are clean always...Our neighbors in our community, we know each other and we get along.  We got backyards, man.  We go outside in our backyards and play. We go swimming.  We got ballet lessons. We grew up playing instruments.  We're doing the same things that most people do in the country.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Make no mistake, American cities are still places of segregation and yawning wealth gaps.  African American and Latino families frequently bear the burnt poverty, failing schools, and violence.  Mr. Eligon reports, "The number of people nationwide living in extremely poor neighborhoods has increased by about five million over roughly the decade, according to a Brookings Institute study."

Thus, when POTUS pontificates about urban ills, the focus of his broadsides is almost exclusively "on these pockets of entrenched social ills."

Los Angeles skyline
Los Angeles, California
As incomplete as POTUS's rendering of cities are, he was, according to Lee Huang, the senior vice president of the Chicago-based Consult Solutions,

...tapping into a level of outrage that we ought to have about our cities...Whether it's violence in Chicago, whether it's unemployment and poverty in Philadelphia, whether it is these structural and physical examples of blight and disinvestment and disparity, I don't think he's off in saying our cities have a lot of challenges.

However, POTUS's critics say that his generalizations are planting fear and solidifying the racial and ethnic stereotypes that divide the United States.  Lucas Leyden commented,

It never seems like he's talking in the context of saying...It's always just disparaging remarks.  "This is bad.

Greektown Detroit, Michigan
On the campaign trail, when speaking on issues of race, then-candidate Trump frequently targeted his words on what he perceived to inner cities, at one point saying,

...African-Americans, Hispanics, are living in hell, because it's so dangerous.

Sulaiman Rahman is worried by this dark portrayal of minority communities, an attempt to justify more aggressive policing tactics.

For example, a mere one week into his administration, POTUS tweeted that if "local officials in Chicago could not control the rampant shooting there, I will send in the Feds!"

Mr. Rahman continued,

When he speaks and uses certain coded language, we kind of understand who he's talking about...You're framing it to justify a more detrimental agenda.  That's the issue.

Homicide Rates For Cities With More Than 250,000 People

John Eligon writes, "Although homicides in large cities in 2015 increased about 15 percent from 2014, they were still down 51 percent from two decades earlier, Richard Rosenfeld a professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, said."

Although homicides did go up almost 13 percent in Philadelphia between 2014 and 2015, they slightly dropped last year.  Prof. Rosenfeld said,

Carnage doesn't describe the reality of American cities.

Aaron Renn, a senior Fellow in urban policy at the conservative think tank Manhattan Institute for Policy Research argued, "Mr. Trump's assessment of cities is rooted in the problems of segregation, discrimination and economic inequality that 'urban progressives' have emphasized."  Mr. Renn would like to correct those disparities.  He said,

I've never heard him once say, "You're to blame for the problem.

Strolling through her Northside Philadelphia neighborhood of Frankford to work, Shanise Bolden has little concern about walking to her job.  She told Mr. Eligon,

Why would it be scary when we know each other.

17th Street Oakland, California
Shanise Bolden's comment is indicative of the sense of community and kinship that runs counter to the roughness of Frankford.  It is that quality that people would overlook or consider if they based their impression of the community solely on crime and economic statistics.

John Eligon describes the neighborhood, "...tightly packed rowhouses.  An elevated train track cuts through the main drag, Frankford Avenue, which is jammed with convenience stores and cellphone shops, and storefronts boasting haircare products, clothes and pawned goods.

Fishtown Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
 For every Frankford, there are neighborhoods like Fishtown that are undergoing gentrification.  Fishtown was once a haven for drugs and other dubious diversions  has transformed into a places of evening jogger and people toting yoga mats.  The corner convenience stores have been replaced by bars with Skee-Ball machines and billiard tables.

Gentrification has displaced a lot of low-income residents of Frankford, and has led to violence.

Leshay Davenport is not too concerned about this.  She told Mr. Eligon that "...she avoided certain parts of the neighborhood know for having a lot of riff raff.  Ms. Davenport has lived in the neighborhood for a decade and feels quite comfortable letting her daughter play outside.  She said,

It's pretty good...The kids are friendly.  There's not really too much violence.  It's a really pretty friendly neighborhood.

Frankford Avenue, 2013
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
High school senior Rasheed Ross told Mr. Eligon, "The challenges of living in a place like Frankford are real.

Positive role models are hard to come by and it is easy to trapped in the wrong things.  He continued, "A lot of people think their only avenues for success are rapping, basketball or dealing drugs.  He said,

It's hard and it's, at the same time, scary...You can get shot anywhere, at any time.

This bleak assessment aside, Mr. Ross also described more nuanced reality.  Most of the shootings are the result of personal conflicts.  He told John Eligon, It's not like somebody would just walk up to you and shoot you for no reason.

American cities as places of carnage?  Not quite true.

One more thing: Blogger would like to send lots of love and good thoughts to the friends, followers, and fans in the United Kingdom as London recovers from a horrific terrorist attack.  Stay safe.

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