The great R&B singer and composer Marvin Gaye famously asked a simple question that was impossible to answer: ‘What’s Going On?’
That was the title of his ground-breaking album, which included the track ‘Inner City Blues.’ As much as a song, ‘Inner City Blues’ was a lamentation. ‘Crime is increasing,’ Gaye mourned, adding this: ‘Panic is spreading, God knows where we’re heading.’
That was written and sung in 1970, nearly a half-century ago! And what has happened since? By most measures America’s inner cities have only gotten worse.
Crime is still rampant, young lives are snuffed out or wasted, home ownership is down, unemployment is a given, school achievement is dismal. Fatherlessness, quaintly called ‘illegitimacy’ in a previous era, is higher than ever. Young black men and women in Milwaukee, Baltimore, and other U.S. cities mourn at many funerals, but never celebrate a wedding.
And through all these decades of misery, blacks have continued to vote for one party. If you’re a Democrat in urban America, stick around; if you’re a Republican, get back.
But why? There was a revealing moment on The Factor this week when defense attorney Andell Brown tried to rationalize that party loyalty. He praised Democrats for equalizing the punishment between crack cocaine and powder cocaine. Really, that’s it? Less time for smoking crack!
Mr. Brown also mentioned increased federal funding for education, but he ignored the inconvenient fact that Democrats almost uniformly oppose voucher programs that can provide young black children with a choice of schools. Teacher unions say ‘jump,’ Democratic politicians ask precisely how high.
One of the more shameful incidents in President Obama’s presidency occurred when he and other Democrats ended a successful voucher program in the District of Columbia. Our own Juan Williams described it as a ‘sin against our children.’ Thousands of black parents were distressed and outraged, but no doubt most of them still went to the polling booth and voted ‘D.’
To be fair, President Obama has tried to help and guide young men with his laudable ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ initiative, but there has been little follow-up.
Of course, no politician or political party can heal the psychic wounds that plague Americans who are mired in poverty and despair. But it’s been demonstrated that one man or woman can make a difference.
In the early 1990s, New York City Mayor David Dinkins essentially surrendered, telling his city that crime was a part of life, you’d better get used to it. Rudy Giuliani didn’t believe that, not for a minute. Under the new mayor, crime declined at a much faster rate than any other major city. Mayor Giuliani can accurately be credited with saving thousands of black lives in New York City.
Which brings us to 2016 and Donald Trump, who gave a much-hyped speech in Wisconsin this week about law and order, crime and punishment. Singling out nearby Milwaukee, Trump accurately reported that the murder rate is soaring. To no one’s surprise, most of the perps and victims are young black men.
He also pointed out that Milwaukee has been run by the Democratic Party machine for decades. The last time the city had a Republican mayor? How about 1908, when the esteemed Sherburn M. Becker left office. As an aside, Becker was elected at age 29 and was known as the ‘boy mayor.’
Donald Trump has recently been employing the term ‘law and order,’ sounding like a hybrid of Nixon and Giuliani. And let there be no doubt that many black Americans, especially moms and dads, like the sound of that. They don’t want to agonize every time their child leaves the house.
But how many of them will make the leap and switch parties, even for one election cycle? Very few, not after being told for decades that Republicans are evil racists. And even if Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton focus like a laser on the inner city, the problems run very deep and will take decades to ameliorate.
On the bright side, or at least the slightly illuminated side, there are a few concrete steps a leader can take: Reduce crime, create incentives to marry and raise families, institute more choice in schools, break the vice-like grip of the teacher unions, and promote business and entrepreneurship. That could at least begin to make a dent.
Back in 1970, Marvin Gaye cried out in despair: ‘It makes me wanna holler, and throw up both my hands.’ The time has come for responsible, law-abiding black Americans to holler at the right targets, the politicians and bureaucrats who have helped create this mess with their liberal policies and widespread corruption.
No doubt some of those political leaders were well-intentioned, but they sowed the seeds of a rolling disaster that may even be accelerating. Americans are paying a steep price, no one more so than black citizens who still can’t shake those inner city blues.