First, my imperfect but still relevant bona fides…
While I would never claim to have lived what's called the "black experience," I do know what life is like in an American inner-city (what was then called the ghetto) and in an inner-city school. I spent my sixth grade in Milwaukee's Jackie Robinson Middle School, and for two years I lived and worked on Milwaukee's North Side near or below 35th Street (look it up). Not as a tourist or a yuppie looking to gentrify, not as some liberal do-gooder who's "down with the struggle." I was poor. Period. And during those years, like many who live in these areas, I was mugged, assaulted, and robbed.
My wife and I eventually escaped -- not through the government or any kind of handout, but through family and our own relationship. With a small family loan of around $800 and the combining of our incomes (we both worked), we were able to escape to a small one bedroom apartment in a nicer part of town. From there, we never looked back.
Let me first address the elephant in the room -- yes, I'm white. So maybe my white privilege had something to do with it? Well, my white privilege can't seem to get "Death Wish V" released on Bluray; regardless it is more complicated than that. I'm in an interracial marriage. I was not born into money, rather I was born into the family of a housewife and auto mechanic. My wife was literally born dirt poor in Mexico. One of her earliest memories is sleeping out in the open fields on bags of cotton her migrant parents picked. When we met she was working two full time jobs.
This is the long way of me telling you that unlike many politicians and almost all journalists, I know a little something of what I speak.
Life In An Inner-City School
For a lily-white kid who had spent his entire life in the Milwaukee suburb of Wauwatosa, my year at Jackie Robinson was one of the best things that ever happened to me. You either adapt and survive in that feral environment or you collapse into a pool of blubbering victimhood. I came out the other end much wiser and tougher.
For those students who didn't come from Wauwatosa (read all of them) that year was a moral calamity, a completely lost academic year in a school that barely held any classes. Granted, it was some kind of liberal do-gooder experimental school at the time, where the structure of a regular school was ejected in favor of the idea of letting kids be kids. But what it really was was "Lord of the Flies," with hopeless and hapless teachers standing by.
Other than the endless racial bullying (the school was more than 70% black), which only ended after I decided not to take it anymore (like I said, the school was good for me), my memories of that year revolve mainly around card playing, comic book trading, running the halls, and all kinds of grab-assing. Tragically, although this was a group of kids that most needed it, there was absolutely no focus on the academic skills that might eventually result in a better life for them.
Basically, it was a warehouse disguised as an educational experiment.
Life In The Inner City
What is there to say? It's awful. Sure, an overwhelming majority of the people who live in inner-cities are hardworking and decent. What ruins everything, though, is a disproportionately high amount of rotten people who prey on your children with the allure of drugs, sex, and gangs. The criminal element is a cancer. The threat of violence looms over all things, which devastates property values, which frightens away both personal and business investment, which turns into a vicious circle of despair.
What brought black Americans north during what is known as the Great Migration of the 1900s, was more than just a desire to flee from the Democrat-run Jim Crow south. It was the promise of industrialized factory work, a good job; and eventually a good union job.
With these jobs, a black man could raise a family, put his children into school instead of into the fields, and even own his own home.
Then the industrial base began to collapse… Then the Great Society decided it was a good idea for Uncle Sam to replace the black father. The Left's War on Poverty was nothing more than another sinister plantation disguised as compassion. With their policies of slavery and Jim Crow, Democrats could not destroy the black family. They finally found a silver bullet in the welfare check (which is having the same effect on the white rural poor, though not (yet) at the same alarming numbers).
So what do you have in the inner-city? Absentee fathers replaced with gangs and drugs, ridiculously over-funded schools that have failed generation after generation, a culture of dependence on a government that subjugates one's sense of individualism and self respect, and mostly service jobs as opposed to the kind of jobs that give a person a decent income and a true sense of self-worth.
On top of that, thanks to big business-addicted Republicans and mercenary Democrats, many of our cities are being flooded with low-wage labor in the form of refugees, legal immigrants and illegal immigrants. In other words, even for shitty starter jobs, our own distressed citizens are in competition against people who have no business being here until our own are taken care of.
Moreover, with all this cheap labor, wages are artificially lowered in a marketplace that is a boon for The Man.
Let's talk first about what is not the answer.
Enterprise Zones Are a Joke
Sure, as a young Republican concerned primarily with the poor and well aware of the fact that left-wing policies are designed only to enslave the poor, I was once enamored with the Jack Kemp plan to create "enterprise zones" or "empowerment zones." The idea is basically one where businesses are given all kinds of government incentives to relocate into inner-cities and hire within.
Unfortunately, they don't work.
Social networks, not residential geography, tend to determine employment decisions. Social networks may be centered on a particular neighborhood, but they are often not, particularly in the sort of high-crime ghettos that discourage the formation of strong local ties. In areas like Red Hook, residents tend not to be embedded in social networks that connect them to private-sector jobs, even jobs in their own neighborhood. There is little reason to suppose that promoting local businesses in similar areas would change this pattern.
In some cases employers preferred not to hire people who lived too close to work for fear that the complicated lives of the poor would spill out into the workplace:
We have drawn people from the Red Hook area for a number of jobs and we haven’t had particularly good experiences. It’s interesting that the thing that seems to be the problem is that people feel almost too close to home. They tend to want to go home for lunch and stay there.... They tend to have a fair number of visitors. Sometimes children, spouses, boyfriends, and girlfriends come in to visit them.... Sometimes that can be very disruptive.
More often, however, the focus of locality discrimination was the fear of crime. An employer with a large facility on the waterfront pointed with pride to his all-black team of security guards, West Indian immigrants who commute from central Brooklyn and Queens, but scoffed at the idea of hiring local African-Americans: “What, the bums hanging around outside? You want me to hire the guys who are trying to rob me?”
Trump wants to take an entirely new approach to helping our inner-cities, and one that I think is much more pragmatic because it is bottom-up as opposed to top-down.
The cronyism between Democrats and teachers unions is nothing short of demonic. One of the reasons I left the Democrat Party was over this issue. The idea that Democrats would oppose giving an impoverished inner-city child a Golden Ticket out of the disaster that is the government-run inner-city school system is outright inhuman, and proves that Democrats like their black voters as poor, dependent and uneducated as possible.
Over the last week, Trump has made school choice one of the centerpieces of his pitch to black voters. Until black Americans threaten the Democrat power structure over this issue, it will never happen. Trump assailing Hillary and Co. over this might just help to wake that sleeping giant.
Immigration Immigration Immigration
At the expense of the poor everywhere, but most especially the inner-city poor, Democrats (with the help of those big business-addicted Republicans) are flooding this country with unskilled, low wage labor.
First off, primarily from the black youth who most need them, all of this immigration eliminates countless starter jobs -- those crucial jobs that teach responsibility and accountability, that get a resume rolling that can lead to better things.
Worse, as I mentioned before, this flood of future Democrats artificially depresses wages, which makes all the difference. One practical difference is the one between owning a car and not owning a car -- which is oftentimes the difference between being able to move out of the inner-city or landing a better job in the suburbs.
See how this works?
Smart Trade Over Free Trade
Dear Free Trade Absolutists:
I am more than willing to admit that there will be some negative consequences as a result of Trump's proposed ideas to not be a free trade absolutist. There is no question that tariffs and quotas have a downside.
Why, then, can you not admit that there has been a negative consequence as a result of free trade absolutism? Why can't you admit that on top of the devastating effects globalism has had on the Rust Belt, there has also been incalculable cultural damage, especially in our inner-cities.
And yet, every time someone dares question your Free Trade Absolutism Commandment, you stomp your feet like Rumpelstiltskin in the absurd certitude that globalism turns straw into gold.
Listen, just like the enterprise zones, I used to be one of you. But the evidence is now achingly clear that one of the consequences of this philosophy has been devastating.
Is there no middle ground here?
Sure, we might pay a little more for motorcycles, but would Wisconsin and America be better off had Ronald Reagan not stepped in to save Harley Davidson?
Are you really not willing to pay a penny more for some WalMart gizmo, even if it means all the good that come from a job over a welfare check for a fellow American?
And if you can only be convinced by your steel-cold slide rule, don't you think that in the long run, the economic benefits will outweigh the drawbacks?
There has to be some compromise on this front.
Assaulting Political Correctness
While Trump himself hasn't directly connected his healthy contempt for the fascism of political correctness to this issue, it is still worthy of note.
Something the left and their media allies have effectively accomplished over the last two decades is placing victimhood above actual ideas. It works like this: The media gives an individual or group victim status. Once that status has been given, the victim can never be wrong, even when they are objectively wrong. And anyone who disagrees is bullied into submission.
Trump's blunt-force assault on this corporate fascism has, and will hopefully continue to, embolden more people to simply tell the truth. Truth is healthy and here are some truths that will help everyone:.
Loveless sex is wrong, unhealthy for the soul and body, and leads only to misery, disease, and poverty.
Having a child out of wedlock is wrong.
Accepting welfare when you are able-bodied is wrong.
Shame is a powerful weapon, not when it's used by the self-righteous, but when it's used to dissuade people from destructive behavior.
We need to bring back shame, not hide it behind an EBT card disguised as a debit card.
The only reason my wife and I escaped the inner-city was through our relationship. On top of allowing my wife to quit her second job, our combined income (which wasn't much) changed everything. Instead of scraping by in the hell of the ghetto, we could scrape by in a suburb.
For a whole host of reasons, the easiest and fastest way to escape poverty is through marriage, or at least a committed relationship on its way to marriage. By sharing expenses, you can afford to move to a nicer part of town and maybe even purchase the vehicle so necessary for upward mobility.
By design, to trap people into government dependence, the destructive welfare state ensures this never happens. Having a child out of wedlock, which the welfare state encourages, is the fastest road to poverty.
Through a school choice program that allows parents to send their children to religious schools, if they so choose, maybe a dent can be made in the destructive mindset that rationalizes out-of-wedlock births. This is another reason Democrats oppose vouchers.
It took a half-century for left-wing policies to achieve their sinister goal of devastating too many black families into the kind of dependency and despair that assures 90% of the vote for the very Party gleefully oppressing them.
Trump's answer is not going to turn that battleship around right away, and it is not the only answer, and like the enterprise zone, we may learn that it is not even the right answer. But it is at least a new answer.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC