So why is it just blacks…

At the end of an interview with KTVU reporter Renee Kemp yesterday about the rising number of violent takeover robberies in Oakland, she asked me “so why is it just blacks?” referring to the apparent perpetrators.

If you don’t live in the Bay Area, there is the appearance on television news of a full-blown crime spree in which gunmen rush into crowded restaurants, take cash from patrons and owners and then flee.  It has also included kidnappings where victims are taken to their ATMs to withdraw cash and some bank robberies.

Unlike scientists who send out biological weapons of mass destruction or mass murderers seeking thrills from torture, it is obvious that this “spike” is a leading economic indicator, far more cogent than anything the Commerce Department puts out.

I put “spike” in quotes because crime basically becomes a problem when non-blacks are the victims. When blacks prey on blacks, it’s not even a story.

My point in the interview is that the high-risk crimes demonstrated the desperation that is a direct outcome of the recent subprime mortgage crisis and the attendant lack of jobs. Here’s a link to the story.

As I’ve broken it down to inmates in local jails, spending 30 years in jail for stealing less than $100 doesn’t make good economic sense.   If slinging dope is such a good deal, why are they still living in the projects with their grandma? No one’s had a good answer yet, and no one’s told me about the dope dealer’s retirement plan.

Raising the risk factor by going outside their own neighborhoods to video-laden chain stores, restaurants and banks makes the risk-reward factor even more impossible.  So why do young black men not understand that, unlike other ethnic groups?

As the Bible verse says, what that someone would tell me, how would I know.    I’ve learned you can’t make the assumption that someone has broken things down like that.  It’s certainly been a life-changing revelation to the young men I’ve spoken with.

Outside the media spotlight, a group led by Rev. Regnaldo Woods in the Western Addition of San Francisco, ended violent behavior for more than seven months by simply meeting with “shot-callers”, bringing in Danny Glover for reinforcement and showing them a path to guaranteed employment after taking an eight-week job readiness class.   It was amazing how thrilled people were to get jobs as grocery baggers or sidewalk power-washers.

BET videos notwithstanding, crime doesn’t pay well.  Any reaasonable alternative will sway the great majority of young men in our depressed neighborhoods.

That’s a big reason why National Black Business Month is so important.   The entrepreneurs most likely to give a second chance to our ex-offenders and hopeless young men are the businesses who operate in the communities of which they are a part of.     In economic terms, it just makes good sense.

Five years ago, I did a study for the Bay Area Black United Fund which proposed paying potential violent offenders $10,000 for each year they stayed out of trouble and drug free for five years.   The cost-benefit payback was about 30-to-1 when I calculated the $50,000 potential cost to their families from a violent death or traumatic paralysis and the billions in lost property value to homeowners just because of the perception of unsafe neighborhoods.     For about $30 million a year, I proposed that Alameda County, which includes Oakland, could target about 1,500 likely offenders who committed most of the violent crime in the area.   

Instead, there have been repeated parcel taxes to hire more police officers and an expansion of California’s prison system when the only reliable indicator to reduce violent homicides is an increase in black male college attendance.  Thanks to Ward Connerly, that number has been declining, and homicides and violent crime have been going up.

So finally, to answer the question, why are young black men taking such gambles, one need only look at the disparity in unemployment rates.  Despite all the pressures on the U.S. economy, every ethnic group except blacks has an unemployment rate under the full employment level  of six per cent.  The rate for blacks is 9.2 per cent, not counting 10 million not in the workforce over age sixteeen.

If unemployment approached ten percent among whites,(now only 4.7 percent for white men and 4.1 percent for white females) which has not happened in the past forty years, they would be carrying out takeover robberies too.


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