Last month, an armed drug dealer shot six policemen who attempted to arrest him in the Nicetown neighborhood of Philadelphia. Nicetown is one of those places in America that the elected of both political parties have long since not bothered to even pretend they gave a damn about.
In my youth, under then Police Commissioner Frank Rizzo who later became mayor, Nicetown residents were not protected by the police. In fact, there were signs on the street warning that there was no police protection and that the neighborhood was protected by “armed NAACP Commandos” who were Vietnam Vets looking out for little old church ladies and children, but the police did show up to endlessly harass and profile Black men on the street, arresting them on the slightest pretext and at will.
To this day, some 40 years later, when I meet an ADOS from Philly I will mention what a horrible person Rizzo was, and even if they grew up after Rizzo’s time, their parents told them, “Rizzo is the Devil.” Indeed he was.
Nicetown, with a population of 49,300, is 91.25 percent Black, 3.57 percent White and 1.04 percent Asian. Here, Classism, Racism and Globalism, the three horsemen of the apocalypse, work together to sap Nicetown residents of the one thing every human being needs to get from one day to the next – hope.
There are 18,925 households in Nicetown. There are 13,621 employed or business-owning people in Nicetown. The average household income in Nicetown is $24,935; in Pennsylvania overall it’s $54,895. Nicetown’s average income per household is less than half the state average income.
The present median house value in Nicetown is $71,765 lower than the average house value for 91 percent of Pennsylvania. Unemployment in Nicetown is 12.6 percent; in Pennsylvania as a whole it’s 4.5 percent. The highest education level attained by 23,316 adults is SOME high school. Those with a B.A. degree total 1,377. Among Nicetown residents, 9,070 are married; 1,711 are separated; 2,334 are widowed, and 3414 are divorced. There are 23,782 who have never married. Nicetown is a place full of bleak statistics.
Nicetown was once an American hub of manufacturing for steel, rail cars and packaged foods. International global European-based corporations bought out Nicetown’s companies and factories and closed them. Nicetown’s blue-collar workers then had no decent-paying jobs with health insurance, vacations, retirements and money to send the kids to university. Nicetown’s population has been struggling to survive. That struggle to survival often includes illicit means, as legal ones often are just unavailable. Consider how 5,000 of those 18,000 households that have no employment pay the rent and heat. By whatever means necessary, including means outside of the law.
We the People created Nicetown by state and national policies.
We allowed American firms to be bought by overseas corporations. We allowed those firms, even when engaged in strategic industries like steel manufacturing and other manufacturing, to be closed. We emptied Nicetown and most working-class neighborhoods in America of employment.
We said we let it happen for the environment or because it was inevitable, but really we let it happen because we didn’t value our fellow citizens and their basic need for livelihoods.
We betrayed and abandoned them and cast the people of Nicetown, our fellow Citizens, to the wind. We cannot wonder that some became drug dealers, that some of those are willing to kill our policemen and that many Nicetown residents cheer the shooting of those policemen.
Some of us took the sociology class where we learned that if you put a bunch of mice in a cage and deprive them of resources they become violent. Our government officials can only PRETEND shock. They cannot actually be shocked by anything, except perhaps that this type of violent response doesn’t happen more often.
But we can stop the shootings and the suffering here, and in hundreds of neighborhoods like Nicetown, that Neo Liberal Globalist policies have created. We can reverse the policies.
We can do the following:
1. Place tariffs on everything manufactured abroad, considering the differentials between the producing nation’s workers and our own in terms of wages and benefits and then assign a cost of compliance with our regulatory regimes that those goods do not face. That makes the playing field merely level. On that field, the workers of Nicetown can compete, and they will win.
2. Support strategic industries and “Buy American.” One of the big lost companies in Nicetown was Budd. They were leaders in Stainless Steel technology and manufactured railroad engines and cars. They were bought out and closed by Krupp, a German company. In places like Los Angeles, where I live, new streetcar lines are using streetcars built in Japan and China.
Nothing that we could make here that is in our infrastructure should be bought from outside the country, as those exported dollars have no multiplier effect within our nation. We should actually reconstitute Budd, and a competitor, and only build streetcars, rail cars and engines here. We should only buy American steel, American pipe, American cable, American electronics and so on and so on for our nation’s infrastructure.
3. Universal adult education. Be it university or trade school, all American citizens should get the education they need. Education is NOT a luxury in American society. We have treated it as such. Criminal, greedy educational systems need serious reform and clipping, but American adults need free and universal access.
We can make Nicetown and America places where grinding poverty and its marriage partner, crime, are not hallmarks of our society. We just have to actually give a damn about our fellow citizens of every color enough to make it happen.