Magazine article The Crisis

Replace Mass Incarceration with Major Economic Opportunity

Magazine article The Crisis

Replace Mass Incarceration with Major Economic Opportunity

Article excerpt

chicago. New Orleans. Detroit. All of these cities are frequently cited as epicenters of gun violence, with stories about neighborhood shootings regularly appearing on our nightly news. But rarely will news coverage offer the full context for inner-city violence: In particular, these cities are among the most economically unequal cities in the country.

The U.S. has both the highest economic inequality and highest homicides levels of all wealthy nations. And it's no coincidence. Economic inequality tears at the social fabric of our communities.

However, conversations around inner city gun violence - contrary to conversations around gun violence in suburban communities - rarely highlight the nuanced realities of the people (many of color) who live in distressed communities with little economic opportunity and scarce resources.

And while focusing on Black and Brown Americans as perpetrators is the norm, less often do we think about the inverse: that race, class and location also destine Black and Brown Americans to more likely be victims.

Poverty is a frequently cited cause for gun violence. The African American poverty rate is double that for White Americans, and nearly one-third of African American children are impoverished. But poverty is less a cause and more a symptom of the structural racial and economic inequities percolating in our urban centers.

At its crux, inner-city violence has been and continues to be the consequence of policies and programs (as well as the lack of the same) that hamper the economic opportunity and mobility of our country's poorest.

The decline in the manufacturing sector compounded by White flight has devastated Inner cities with fewer jobs, scarce resources and a shrinking tax base. And the policies that created opportunity for White Americans to join the middle class continue to be inaccessible to many African Americans, resulting in higher unemployment, low income and low wealth. …

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