The Urban Crisis
Stanley William Rothstein
To those who live in the inner cities the dominant assumptions of American society no longer apply. It is discouraging to see the hopes of the 1960s dashed by the realities of the depressed 1990s. Even after a triumph in the political arena, things remain pretty awful for the minority and immigrant families forced to live and work in the reservations of our inner cities.
As unemployment rises, so do crime and the desperate voices inside the ghetto. Urban protest movements revive even in the current rocky soil, and the Los Angeles riots have had their echo in many other urban centers. Newspapers announce to the world that the drug culture has created a new and dangerous world of gangs, as if that explains or justifies the terrible neglect of our inner cities. Crime is rising, and the ability of the police to control the situation is faltering badly. Many minority people are convinced that their depressed conditions are a direct consequence of the system's neglect and deeply held prejudices. Many solve their everyday problems by joining a gang to secure themselves against assault while working in illegal trades to make ends meet. Many others are forced onto the dole, experiencing welfare and inflicting humiliation on themselves and their children. All assume, of course, that there are no political movements reflecting their interests and concerns. The schools and community groups are losing their influence and control over inner-city youngsters.
In response, community organizations, churches, and urban protest movements have taken more extreme positions. Confronted with the logic of an apartheid society in the United States, they are falling into despair and violent rhetoric. The rappers are the vehicle for the smoldering anger and frustration of minority communities that are living in conditions that rival those of Third World countries. Still the most important evidence of the breakdown of social order and control in our inner cities has been the riots, which are beginning to take on the coloration of a revolt against the penal system. As in the explosions that followed