The Birth of Street Crime
The legacy of slavery lives in our streets. African-Americans, descended from slaves, living in poverty, commit street crimes because of their poverty and their heritage.
In 1619, the first slave ships landed in the North American colony of Jamestown, Virginia. Slaves, brought from Africa to work for their slave owners, were tortures, forced to live in impoverished communities, forced to work for free, and deprived of the basic freedom to learn. Slave owners had complete control over the slaves, and they made it nearly impossible to survive.
Now, four hundred years later, conditions for the descendants of slaves still create criminality. Uneducated and impoverished, living in desperate communities, African-Americans in today’s inner cities are destined to commit street crimes.
When comparing 1619 and present day, they are fraternal twins to each other. Both times involved, slaving, or imprisoning an extreme number of African-Americans, illiteracy in the African-American communities and severe poverty. Viewing the horrific timeline from 1619 to present day, there is a chain reaction of slavery, illiteracy, Jim Crow laws, and impoverished generations that produced street crime.
Starting with slavery, it thrived for an excruciating 245 years. In 1776, the Founding Fathers of America created the Declaration of Independence, which would later free slaves. Slavery would then be a problem for African-Americans for the next 89 years. Slaves were freed by the 13th Amendment that was created in 1865.
After slavery, African-Americans worked for very little pay. African-Americans could not make sufficient money ironically, because the only way to make sufficient money was to own farms. They could not own land, so they found themselves working in the same farms where they were once enslaved. Farmers were the driving force of America’s economy. Africans couldn’t own land because they were not considered citizens of the US. This is like problems we have today with wages and living conditions. According to the “United Sates Census Bureau,” in a chart of the “median household income”, the “average African Americans household makes only $33,321.” This is a little more than half of White household’s income. African Americans will get paid less than Whites who are doing the same job. There is a similarity with the pay because in the past African Americans always made less than Whites. Black ex-cons and White excons are receiving different pay aswell. Bruce Western, in the table three chart in his essay, “The Impact of Incarceration on Wage Mobility and Inequality,” claims that the average wages of African-American ex-cons are documented at $5.33, which is less than white ex-cons at $5.77. Trying to survive in society with these wages for both Whites and Black is nearly impossible. Most ex-cons end up living in the same environment that lead to their arrest. Even though both ex-cons and ex-slavers are free, theirs living situations seems all too familiar.
African-Americans have always been deprived of access to proper education. During slavery, it was illegal for slaves to learn so up until the end of slavery African-Americas didn’t learn. If you have generations of illiterate ancestors, this will negatively affect the learning ability for future generations. After slavery, Blacks were not allowed to go to the same schools as Whites because of Jim Crow laws. The schools that were available to Blacks were barely functional. If people are placed in an environment filled with poverty and illiteracy, street crime will be the result.
During segregation, African-Americans were not allowed to integrate into White communities therefore, Africans lived in impoverished communities. These communities were designed to be placed away from white communities. This is like the way communities are structured in present day. The structure of today’s communities started when America shifted from an agricultural economy to a factory driven economy in the 19th century. As the industrial age grew, and the agricultural age declined, people began to leave the farming life behind and move to cities and towns with factory jobs. The nation’s wage earnings began to come from people who were formerly self-employed but now employed by major corporations. Blacks and Whites where living in segregated communities, but they were more often working in the same factories in their cities and towns. This increase in the industrial age also came to a decline at the fault of the great depression. In 1929-39, America along with many other countries suffered from the largest economic fall in history. This economic fall forced many companies to lay off workers, causing vast unemployment and hardships. After 1939, the economy recovered after the New Deal and World War II’s contribution to the industrial industry.
Whites began to leave the cities and move to suburban areas where blacks weren’t allowed. Public Housing policies were still preventing Blacks from taking most opportunities that were available to Whites. In a broadcast on “Fresh Air,” Richard Rothstein said that “the second policy, which was probably even more effective in segregating metropolitan areas, was the Federal Housing Administration, which financed mass production builders of subdivisions starting in the 30’s and then going on to the 40’s and 50’s in which those mass production builders, places like Levittown for example, and Nassau County in New York and in every metropolitan area in the country, the Federal Housing Administration gave builders like Levitt concessionary loans through banks because they guaranteed loans to lower interest rates for banks that the developers could use to build these subdivisions on the condition that no homes in those subdivisions be sold to African-Americans.” In this same broadcast, he also said that “This was to ensure that public housing would only be used to house people of the same race in which it was located.” This pushed Whites out of the public housing communities and trapped Blacks in. The overpopulation and low-income of communities made poverty spread like a disease.
As poverty started to grow problems started to rise and street crime was born. Drugs began to find their way to these impoverished communities. After WWII, war veterans returned home to these overpopulated and impoverished communities with bigger problems than the war to deal with. One of these problems was drug addiction. Drugs such as morphine and heroin was used on a regular basis in wars as pain killers. According to an article on “narconon.org,” “morphine was the only thing that made the gunshot, amputation and recovery tolerable.” Many soldiers became addicted to the drug and even after the war ended, they couldn’t shake the addiction. Heroin started getting made in the 19th century by boiling morphine. According to the same article, “in 1898, the Bayer pharmaceutical company began an aggressive marketing campaign to sell its commercial preparation of heroin. Heroin was heavenly promoted as being non-addicting, and therefore an excellent treatment for morphine addiction. In 1906, the American Medical Association approved Heroin for general use and recommended that is be used in place of morphine.” Heroin flooded the bodies of the solders and they had to feed their addiction. Returning home unemployed and living in poverty prevented them from buying the drugs they needed. If someone needs money, but they are unemployed they will do anything to obtain the money. Street crime is the easiest way to make money for people living in impoverished communities. Get a gun on the street and robbing someone is easier than getting a job.
Because of racism, African-Americans have been getting slaughtered since the beginning of slavery. During the time of slavery, Blacks were beaten, hung from trees, and abused, even by police. Blacks have always had trouble with police brutality and even in present day this hasn’t changed. Police officers get away with murdering people because their badges protect them. At the end of the day, it’s our word against theirs. America has always stereotyped Blacks as criminals, so if there is no one around to witness the murders they get away with them. There have been frequent videos of police wrongfully killing unarmed Black people and they still seem to get away with it. There have been a gruesome number of police killings of unarmed Black people in the past decades. According to the article, “Mapping Police Violence” on “Mapping Poliece Violenc.com” in 2015 alone, there was over 100 murders of unarmed Black people. This is unacceptable and it needs to change. We as Americans must figure out a way to undo all the wrongs done to African-Americans in the past and present. It is easy for America to blame African Americans for what we go through in America, but it’s not our fault its America’s fault. Tracing street crime back to slavery is a long process but when you connect the dots they add up. After looking at the evidence, slavery is the only clear explanation for street crime.
“Heroin History 1900s.” Narconon International. Narconon, Web. 22 Nov. 2016.
NPR. “Historian Says Don’t ‘Sanitize’ How Our Government Created Ghettos” NPR.org. Fresh air. 14 May, 2015. Web.6 Nov.
Western, Bruce. The Impact of Incarceration on Wage Mobility and Inequality (n.d.): n. pag. Scholar.Harverd.edu. Harvard University, 1 Aug. 2002. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.
“Police Killed More than 100 Unarmed Black People in 2015.” Mapping Police Violence. Mapping Police Violence, n.d. Web. 05 Dec. 2016.
History.com Staff. “Slavery in America.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2009. Web. 09 Dec. 2016
Harden, Seth. “Welfare Statistics and Demographics.” Statistic Brain. Statisticbrain, 27 Sept. 2016. Web. 09 Dec. 2016.