The Perils of Federalism: Race, Poverty, and the Politics of Crime Control

By Lisa L. Miller | Go to book overview

Six
CITIZENSHIP THROUGH PARTICIPATION

Political structures do what they are forced to do, not what good will
would have them do. And if the community that is most impacted [sic]
does not have the political force to make it painful for elected officials not
to do it, then they’re not going to do it.

—Pittsburgh City Council member, 2003

Narratives of black urban life in the mass media and scholarly research
have tended to focus on poverty and its impact on the culture and social
organization of the black poor. In pursuing this line of inquiry, investiga-
tors have addressed an extremely narrow range of social behaviors and
relations: crime, teenage sexuality, family disorganization, and “ghetto
street life” have dominated both the research agendas of academics and
the imagery of the mass media. Historically, political organization, work
and leisure, and other everyday dimensions of urban life that de rigueur
have guided and informed the research of social scientists working else-
where fade from view within the epistemological frontiers of the black
inner city.

—Steven Gregory, Black Corona: Race and the Politics of Place in an

Urban Community

Chapter 5 left unanswered two important questions about the role of citizen groups in local crime politics, particularly the broad groups that often represent urban neighborhood interests. First, given that many of these groups are simply reporting crime problems to their local legislators, can they really be compared to groups that propose and advocate for specific policy solutions? Can they be said to be participating in the policy

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