Violence in the City

Violence in the City

Violence in the City

Violence in the City

Excerpt

Community violence, like cancer, is foreshadowed by danger signals. Common signs of trouble include a high unemployment rate in the ghetto, police abuse and slum housing. But whether these danger signals spell a riot depends on the setting in which they are found -- both the psychic setting and the ecological setting. The psychic setting refers to the expectations level that people have toward their lives and the attitudes they have toward the adverse facts of their existence. The ecological setting involves the way people are distributed in space, how they organize -- or fail to -- in their neighborhoods and the effects all this has on the unity or disunity of their interests and action.

To probe the potential for rioting, it is not enough to know the number of substandard houses in a certain section of the city. More essential is how the people there accept living in slums, whether they can envision a better life for themselves. It is not enough to know what the unemployment rate is. More crucial are the expectations of the idle people and the degree of frustration and anger they may have from finding no work, or work that has no future. It is also not enough to know whether people say police mistreat ghetto dwellers. More important is the way with which any abuse is accepted.

It is also not enough in any attempt to understand civil disorder in this country to say that riots are caused by "oppression." Oppression, in the form of racial discrimination and deprivation, existed from the time the first 20 blacks from Africa were sold by a Dutch shipmaster at Jamestown, Va., in 1619. Although there were slave rebellions during the years and outbreaks of race riots in the period of both world wars, massive community violence did not start occurring until the 1960's. Why? There are several reasons, and they apply to what will be discussed in this chapter as the "sead" factors of unrest. Briefly, the reasons include: (1) By the 1960's, many Negroes had heeded the admonition that "edu-

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