Race issues are very dear to me. No doubt this is to due to the experiences I have lived, and the way I was raised. The worst thing I come across while reading about, or discussing, these issues is the apparent attitude that things happen without cause. This is something Coates (who will get a few more mentions in this post) often addresses in his work, and I admire him for that.
People who argue against institutional racism point to crime and poverty in some black areas as proof that it’s not the “white man’s fault”. Is there more crime than we would like in the black community, especially the poor black community? Yes. But those people who argue about the impact of racism never stop to ask how these areas became the way that they are in the first place. From all available data, we know that drug use in the United States became a problem for everyone decades ago, and still is. And remember that most of the 20th century was filled with the federal government, state governments, and local governments trying to find ways to maintain the social order that had always existed in this country with white people on top, and everyone else below.
Coates, in this particular piece of his series, ”The Ghetto Is Public Policy’, shows the impact of buying on contract in Chicago. This policy made it virtually impossible for black families to move up the economic ladder. Let’s note here that Chicago is not in the South, which tends to get blamed for all race issues, but that is another issue for another day. As Coates wrote, the entire point of the legal practice of contract buying was to prevent black people from building wealth. The following column of the same series adds the dimension that due to this practice, whites were able to benefit from decreased competition from black buyers, while black people dealt with increased competition for a smaller number of properties. This was devastating to those black, middle-class families that were trying create better lives. And there were other policies all over the country that intended the same results.
As for drug use, the Reagan administration supported the Contras. That’s a fact. The Contras were funded by drug trafficking, and the government knew it. Did the government try to stop it? No. So any rise in the use of crack/drugs can be attributed to government policy, whether the government purposefully helped to distribute drugs or not. But that would bring up some bad feelings, and if there’s one thing that we know, it’s that people don’t like to feel bad.
Things aren’t the way they are for nothing. These situations didn’t happen in a vacuum. The present condition of things is the direct result of decisions made by people. We shouldn’t forget that.