I’ve sat back and listened to many conversations about why crime increases in communities around the country. More specifically I’ve heard people in Baton Rouge speak about crime and usually education and the lack of fathers in the home is where white communities point the finger concerning crime. The reality is there are a host of different data points that help craft the message of what increases crime, however the common factor no matter the color of a persons skin is almost always economic status. Poorer communities tend to have higher rates of crime.
In Baton Rouge we have this new pride about the renaissance of the down town community. It is difficult to find stories of the crime that existed down town, but it was terrible pre-Kip Holden. There are stories of prostitution on 3rd Street, and drug uses inhabiting abandoned buildings that I’ve heard from people like Darryl Gissel. Yet, when we look at down town Baton Rouge today, you would never know it. Why is this? Our city elected a leader who came up with a plan for down town and went to work ensuring that it didn’t remain the same. Now a decade later, down town Baton Rouge will certainly be one of the lasting legacies of Mayor Kip Holden.
The problem with Baton Rouge has been the same for some time now. We grow in isolation. We count the assets of one area as greater than that of others. We speak of north Baton Rouge as a liability, rather than an asset. This is driven by white owned media, like it or not. As well as divestment from groups like that Baton Rouge Area Chamber, that has received millions of tax payer dollars and grown only the portions of the parish that are whiter.
One would say, “Gary why does everything have to be black and white with you?” It is simple, the numbers are in black and white. When the city of Baton Rouge does business it does business with white companies. When the city of Baton Rouge invest money it invest in white communities. That is black and white in numbers, on a page, it’s called data. There is proof that our city parish has discriminated against north Baton Rouge and as a result white business interest have helped to increase crime in POCKETS of north Baton Rouge. I say pockets because, based on the numbers most of north Baton Rouge doesn’t experience crime. The majority of the crime happens in the poorest areas of north Baton Rouge, where we have starved resources.
For all the money we give to the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, no one has ever done a “leakage” study, to track how many dollars leave north Baton Rouge weekly to support the economy of south Baton Rouge. I know without a doubt that it will be millions of dollars a year. How do I know? Because I don’t know a black person in Baton Rouge who doesn’t own a pair of shoes, or a shirt, or a pair of socks, and if you ask most of these people where they made their purchases it will be a location in the southern portion of the parish. Crime increases when you continue to develop one area and begin to starve another area and then blame the black community for not taking care of itself.
Why do the government contracts matter? They are huge economic stimulators. A large white owned company gets a contract for $2.5 million. That company does the work and creates decent paying jobs. Mostly for white citizens of the parish. Those jobs support other jobs, the gas station attendant, the mechanic at the auto shop, the local neighborhood grocery store, are all sustained in part through the economic impact of the government contract.
We can’t say this is black people looking for a handout, because we simply aren’t getting the OPPORTUNITY to play in the game. Even simple professional service contracts which often don’t require a certain amount of capacity, they usually require brain capacity, are handed to firms who are white owned, that have very few blacks in leadership. So the companies that we support financially as a city parish, help the white community get richer and blame the black community for having high crime.
It is simple, if you take away the resources GIVEN to the white business community, watch how many of their employees resort to a life of crime eventually. It’s like the movie Trading Places that came out in 1983. Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd are switched by two wealthy white businessmen. In the end Dan who was a wealthy white businessman turns to crime and Eddie Murphy who was the poor man in the movie becomes high class. If you give people opportunities they will succeed. We have made too many of our opportunities in Baton Rouge lean white, and my friend that simply isn’t right.
If we really want safer communities it starts by creating balance in our opportunities.