Mar 1, 2004
Thirty-five murders in January in the city of Detroit were followed by the murder of two city police officers on February 16, during a routine traffic stop.
The authorities and media, acting as if they had just noticed the problem, made crisis pronouncements. The police chief extended officers' shifts from 8 hours to 12 hours. The mayor called for a "spiritual" solution. As if more patrols and more praying were some sort of answer!
The increase in murders in Detroit is only the early sign of what is coming in every large city with hundreds of thousands of youth with no jobs, no education, and no future offered to them except the streets, the prisons, the army – or early graves.
A report last year by Northeastern University's Center for Labor Market Studies sampled this increasingly desperate population. Nationally, from 2000 to 2002, the number of young adults, ages 16 - 24, who were both jobless and out of school rose 12% and totaled nearly five and a half million. Most of these unemployed young adults are not included in government statistics. If they were, the unemployment rate would jump up more than 60% above today's level!
In this time when there are fewer jobs even for working-class youth who have been able to get some higher education, there are virtually no jobs for the rest.
In response to the sudden official concern over the Detroit murder rate, there were some blind enough to dismiss it as simply something that always happens in Detroit. And there were those who were racist enough – ignorant enough – to blame it on the large black population in Detroit.
But it is not a problem of some particular city – except that Detroit, based on the cyclical auto industry for well over 70 years, has always been hit earlier by bad times than other cities. Nor is it a problem of some particular race, except for the fact that in this racist society unemployment has always weighed most heavily on the black population.
This society today increasingly offers to its unemployed youth only violent options – the streets, the army, the jails. It should be no surprise to anyone that as joblessness increases among more and more millions of youth, murders will increase. The violence encountered in every large city today is only the mirror-image reflection of the violence done to those who are denied a part in the normal life of society.
It should come as no surprise in the future, that as long as joblessness is not eliminated, crime and violence will not go away.