|The most important book you will never read: A loose history of the consequences of The Great Migration|
Especially Chicago. Culminating with the election of Harold Washington as mayor in 1983, the black population of Chicago has long represented the primary source of crime, murder, mayhem, and best manner in which to drive down property value and scare away businesses.
In 1972, it was the De Mau Maus, a gang of black terrorists who, in a five-month crime spree, killed 10 whites in robberies, home invasions, and random shootings in Chicago’s supposedly safe suburbs and along its well-traveled expressways.
In 1981, it was a white 18-year-old Cicero woman who as stripped, beaten, robbed and sexually assaulted by at least seven black youths during a rhythm-and-blues concert at International Amphitheatre, four days after Christmas.
In 1983, it was the Mahaffey brothers, Reginald and Jerry, two black men who climbed in the open bathroom window of a Rogers Park apartment, raped a 30-year-old white woman, beat her and her husband to death with a baseball bat and severely beat the couple’s 12-year-old son.
Crimes such as these, in which ghetto violence reaches out of the inner city and into the middle class, are not common. But when they occur, the frightening news stories get bold headlines and wider readership and spark renewed fears and prejudices that adversely- and unfairly – affect the vast majority of blacks, both poor and affluent, who are law abiding.
For years, whites and middle-class blacks in Chicago and around the nation have fled from a black underclass mired in poverty and routinely plundered and victimized by a subclass of criminals.
Then white and middle-class blacks are forced to recognize that, no matter how far they may run, no matter how much they may try to ignore the crime that makes life in the underclass a dangerous daily existence, there is no escape.
In fact, the number of black-on-white crimes is small- miniscule, really, when compared with crime statistics for the inner-city neighborhoods, called “snake-pits” by police and social activists.
Yet, for all of society, the effect of underclass crime- whether black-on-white or black-on-black – is profound.
Underclass crimes cost the wage earners of America billions of dollars a year in police, court and prison expenditures.
They turn many of Chicago’s public schools into places where the fear of crime and injury is routine for students and teachers and cause many parents – white and black- to move their children to private schools or move their families to the suburbs.
They feed white prejudices and fuel the slow-dying embers of discrimination and are used by many whites to justify their refusal to differentiate between blacks who follow the law and those engaged in crime.
And they underline the ugly reality of modern urban life that many whites live in constant, if little acknowledged, fear and guilt because of the existence of the underclass and the threat of underclass crime.
Many whites are scared of the lone black youth on an empty subway platform, scared of the group of black teens walking down the sidewalk, even scared of the middle-aged man sitting on the park bench.
Much of the city frightens whites. Many white suburbanites, in fact, are afraid to walk on any Chicago street, day or night. Most city residents, more savvy, know there are safe communities. But they also know there are ghetto neighborhoods that are best avoided at night and other inner-city war zones where it is dangerous for anyone – white or black – to appear at any time.
Even in their quiet, comfortable, “safe” neighborhoods and suburbs, whites fear the threat of underclass violence. Over and over, they have read how, with no logical pattern, ghetto crime has reached into the most peaceful of communities to destroy the cherished tranquility with violence and death. Over and over, they have known the bitter taste of their fear.
The victims of the De Mau Maus, for example, were four people slain during a home invasion in Barrington Hills, a family of three murdered on their Monee farm and three men killed in separate shootings along Chicago-area expressways – a college student, a truck drivers and a soldier from Kentucky asleep in his pick-up. All 10 were many miles from the ghettos of Chicago when they were put to death.
Random acts of violence by whites, such as the murders committed by Richard Speck and John Gacy, send chills down the spine but are usually dismissed as the actions of insane or, at least, highly disturbed individuals.
Yet when random violence is committed by blacks against whites, it is often perceived by whites as a reflection on all blacks – even when the criminals are clearly aberrant.
The heavily segregated nature of Chicago and its suburbs has enabled most whites to avoid underclass crime, but it also has helped create urban neighborhoods in which crime is a day-in, day-out, fear-breeding fact of life and, for many, a way of life.
Such crime makes life a hazardous gamble for everyone in the underclass – whether law-abiding or criminal, whether gang member, store owner, welfare mother or minister.
It sets a tone for neighborhoods in which disorder, destruction and dependency are normal, while industry, stability and hope represent deviant behavior.
It exact a high cost in property loss, business flight and charges for goods and services and a higher cost in injury and death.
In 1983, there were 24 times as many violent crimes per square mile in the black districts as in the white districts, even thought he black districts had more than twice as many police as the white districts.
In addition, underclass youths find themselves in schools that are not only dangerous but woefully inadequate. The Chicago public school system spends $8.2 million a year on security, but in 1984 there were 528 assaults by students on fellow students- an increase of 39 percent over the previous year.
In the coming years, experts predict, the underclass will act as an ever-heavier dead weight dragging down the Chicago economy.
Already, the costs are very high. This year, taxpayers in Chicago will spend nearly $500 million for police protection, while it will cost Cook County resident nearly $300 million for the country court system and other law enforcement programs. Taxpayers throughout Illinois will spend $400 million more for the state’s prison system.
What this means is that each Chicagoan who has a job has to pay at least $600 a year to protect himself, his family and others from crime, much of which stem from the underclass.
The poor have always been with us, but not the levels of violent crime that exist today in the ghettos of Chicago and the rest of America.
The rise in the percentage of Chicago's black population (it's roughly 32 percent today)
Experts note that, even at the height of the Capone gangster era, the city’s murder rate was a fourth of what it is today. In those years, during the depths of the Depression, it was possible to walk safely almost anywhere in the city and, on hot nights, to sleep in the parks and on the lakefront without fear of violence. No longer. (p. 40 – 51)