The Violence of Poverty

We should all have the right to live in communities where we can feel safe without the threat of violence but unfortunately many of us face crime and violence in the streets.  It shouldn’t be a surprise that in poorer neighborhoods, high levels of unemployment bring higher crime rates and more violence.

The violence which the media tends to focus on is the violence of mass shootings such as the one at Columbine High School in 1999. Since the massacre at Columbine, there have been about 246 deaths from mass shootings. As tragic as these incidents are, they are nothing compared to the epidemic level of street violence. In 2012, there were 131 homicides in Oakland, 513 in Chicago, 500 in Los Angeles, 414 in New York, 410 in Detroit, 324 in Philadelphia and 200 in Baltimore, totaling 2492 deaths in these cities alone. This number is over ten times as many as the deaths from dramatic mass shootings. There isn’t such a massive public outcry against these deaths because they are tolerated and even expected in this society.

Why is this violence accepted? Because it is the violence that comes along with poverty and exploitation. A recent study found that a young Black male in Oakland has the equal probability of being killed than to go to college. Oakland has nearly twelve robberies per day, has the highest crime rate in California, and leads the country in the number of robberies per 100,000 people. In Oakland the official unemployment rate is 11.9 percent while in East Oakland it is 27.9 percent. Chicago and Los Angeles, which have the two highest murder rates, are also the most unemployed metropolitan cities. It is not news that poverty and violence go hand in hand.. The only violence that makes the headlines is when an exceptionally violent act takes place in a normally safe, middle class, and usually white community.

Really dealing with the violence will mean first dealing with the day to day violence inflicted by the system. If people have jobs, homes, hope and a future to look forward to, you can bet the desperation which leads to crime and violence will be a thing of the past.