Half Past the Month

February 12, 2021

I TELL THE STORY A LOT but events keep making it more applicable, the latest being the Indianapolis crime spike and the mayor’s pathetic response.

The San Francisco earthquake of 1989 caused 63 deaths, 3,800 injuries, and an estimated $6 billion in damage. A film crew happened on a policeman picking his way down a rubble-filled street.

He was yelling up to apartment windows, “Nobody’s coming to help you.” It was his warning that quake victims shouldn’t wait, that they should find water and tend to the injured immediately. It is arguable that he saved more lives than the emergency crews arriving hours or even days later.

Someone should be walking the streets of Far Eastside and Near North Indianapolis with the same message. “Nobody is coming to help; save yourselves.”

Rick Snyder of the Indianapolis Fraternal Order of Police reported this week that the city is in the midst of a crime wave of earthquake proportions. At least 157 have been shot or stabbed and 29 killed in the first 40 days of the year, a pace that will exceed last year’s record of mayhem. 

The city’s reaction is to round up the usual soft-headed corporate executives and schedule some “emergency” community meetings. What will come of that is a long list of recommendations in another long report to the mayor that includes everything but what would actually work, to wit, the arrest and prosecution of violent criminals regardless of their skin pigment or any explanation of root causes or extenuating circumstances. 

Being mad at society, please understand, is not a new criminal rationale. it is the default criminal rationale, and one against which our poorer neighborhoods deserve protection.

Seven years ago Indianapolis went through the same cycle — rising crime, agonizing reappraisal and ineffective response. The foundation dedicated its 2015 fall quarterly journal to describing the city’s plan to save young black men. And despite some healthy skepticism, we wanted the resulting task force to succeed.

The leading program was called, catchily, “Your Life Matters (YLM).” It brought in a $100,000-a-year director from St. Louis, as we recall, to make certain everything clicked into place.

At the time, we asked Patrick Oetting of the Poverty Cure Initiative of the Acton Institute to take a look at the project. Sadly, he found it a pretentious campaign inspired by the usual do-good drivel, one seemingly timed to the Obama presidential election campaign. 

Oetting’s analysis showed the YLM plan to be simplistic, hurried and narrow, especially so when you consider the challenges facing black youth. Most disappointing was the YLM indifference to the traditional but also innovative role of the up-by-your-bootstraps black churches, the successes of which are well documented dating back to the riots of the 1960s and 1970s.

According to a companion essay written for the foundation and reprinted in that same 2015 journal, Dr. Marvin Olasky, author of “Compassionate Conservatism,” recommended that small and simple Christian churches, not mayoral task forces, hold the key to raising young black men from urban malaise. 

And finally, Oetting noted that Pope John Paul II had focused on the church’s role in his 1991 encyclical Centesimus Annus applying the Principle of Subsidiarity, that nothing should be done by a larger and more complex organization that can be done as well by a smaller and simpler organization.

That was not something the assorted social-engineering agencies, do-good nonprofits and corporate suits in Indianapolis wanted to hear. Neither “church” nor “Christian” could be found in the YLM report to the mayor.

It concluded instead that the disproportionate number of young black men involved in Indianapolis crime was an unfortunate result of their poor life chances (racism) and only secondarily with growing up in a familial and spiritual vacuum.  It attempted to define the chosen behavior of troubled young black men as a disadvantage.

The solution — wait for it — was more money. “We must invest strategically in best-practice programs that are targeted to comprehensively serve black males and hold program operators accountable for achieving measurable outcomes (in equality),” the report said in the best grant-speak. “This will involve public buy-in through a collaborative effort of various partnerships and adequate funding.”

This in a nation that has spent $22 trillion on its Great Society. Heather Mac Donald reflects the frustrated reaction of many: “One might have thought that more than 50 years of civil rights legislation; the banishing of Jim Crow segregation; the ubiquity of racial preferences throughout corporate America, higher education and government; trillions of dollars of tax dollars attempting to close the academic achievement gap; and the election of black politicians by white voting districts would have reduced inequity, not increased it.”

As for accountability, if the YLM program had a plan for somehow slowing the historic increase in young blacks murdering blacks we could not find the documentation in that 100-page report to the mayor. Mostly, it logged disjointed activity. There wasn’t enough factual detail to even learn from any failure — merely another program to stroke corporate guilt and pad the pockets of professional virtucrats, some of whom only happened to be black.

Its supporters may say that the mayhem has only increased because of the “economic, civic and interpersonal stress” from the coronavirus pandemic and its “frustration, anger, trauma and mental-health challenges.” But Mac Donald notes that crime fell during the first months of the pandemic shutdowns, both in the U.S. and globally. 

Last month another program promising to rescue Indianapolis blacks was spotlighted in the Indianapolis Star, the think tank for this sort of thing. It quoted Ihotep Adisa, executive director of something called the Kheprw Institute. Kheprw’s mission is “wealth-building” in the black community. He believes that there should be pathways not just for blacks but only for blacks of the proper philosophical bent. 

Like the man said, nobody is coming to help. — tcl


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