ethnography · research · Sociology

Structural Implications of Negricide

Of course, negricidal behavior does not spring from nowhere. Society, culture and her institutions support its presence. If I learned anything in grad school about sociology, I learned that situations, conditions, behaviors, the status quo do not exist unless serving some purpose in the social system.

We know that those who commit crimes, or look like they might, are fodder for the prison-industrial complex. They keep the courts, cops, and concentration camps (prisons) in operation. Once they are released, the parole and probation officers get paychecks, though it is questionable just how much monitoring of their charges they are performing. Felons are not likely to find employment because they are perceived to be more likely to commit violence or more felonies, causing many employers to forgo hiring them unless they are given some incentives (financial) to encourage them to take the risk. Without legitimate employment prospects, former inmates are likely to return to the behaviors responsible for getting them committed in the first place. And the beat goes on.

A couple of decades ago, working middle-class Blacks were lured from the neighborhood to outlying suburban areas by jobs, cheap housing, and the promise of reduced crime as the crack heads, gangbangers, and run of the mill petty criminals would be left behind. Older homeowners in retirement refused to move, but left us anyway by dying out. Younger families jumped at the opportunities, sold their homes, and moved to avoid the long commutes by locating closer to their jobs. They did well for a while, but the jobs began to dry up and the gangbangers expanded their territories and their criminal activities to the suburbs in the high desert and Inland Empire regions. The working middle-class began to make the commute back to the inner city, where the jobs had relocated to take advantage of cheap office space and to occupy the revivified downtown and surrounding industrial areas and enterprise zones.

Those of us left behind in the initial hiatus were witness to the continuing destruction of the sense of community we’d taken for granted. There was a shift from home ownership to renting, where you had no idea of who lived next door to you, but you knew they were paying exorbitant prices to rent modest homes built in the 1950s that now qualified for Section 8 subsidies. It was no longer safe to invite your neighbor into your home for fear they’d rob you blind. Old people that you thought knew better succumbed to crack and heroin. Women became “strawberries”, trading varieties of sex with the men and boys controlling the drug trade when they didn’t have other forms of capital, like food stamps, welfare checks, jewelry, or electronics. Pretty much, the left behind crew of people who either couldn’t or wouldn’t move knuckled under and did our best to maintain a low profile to avoid drawing attention, and bullets, to ourselves. It did no good to complain to our elected officials; they didn’t give a damn. The police were all too happy with the situation as it kept them employed. The middle-class folks were simply happy to have escaped the mayhem. They didn’t consider themselves role models or the glue that held the community together. Drugs, gangs, and guns trumped whatever credibility and social control they wielded in the past.