The War on Neighborhoods: Policing, Prison, and Punishment in a Divided City by Ryan Lugalia-Hollon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
One of the common fallacies you see when the topic of police shootings of unarmed African-Americans is someone saying, “well, no one ever talks about black on black shootings”. There are more than a few things wrong with such a statement. Let’s mention two. The first is that no one talks about white on white crime or, to be more exact, as many critics have pointed out, no one talks about crime rates among whites that way. The second is that such a statement doesn’t really negate the question of institutionalism racism.
I have read this book after reading Stamped from the Beginning and the Color of Law, two books that deal with racism and how laws were used to legally allow for racism. Lugalia-Hollon and Cooper look at the current effects of such policies. In other words, they tie everything together – the racism of the justice system, the effect of racist housing policies, the rise of the suburbs, and the defunding of the schools as well as community safe havens.
War on Neighborhoods focuses on one city, Chicago, and one section of that city, Austin; yet the authors do not hesitate to make larger connections to governmental policies as well as to mention how other cities in the US face similar problems.
The thesis of the book is that the problems that certain areas have (i.e. the inner city, poorer areas) are a result of policies designed to stop crime as well as politicians who not so much don’t care but don’t try anything new. It isn’t simply ending a drug epidemic, it is ending a cycle that is built on racism and classism. It is about empowering communities as opposed to governments.
The book is divided into chapters, many of which take an aspect of the problem and dissect it. I saw most because there is a conclusion and an introduction. Of particular interest is how inner-city areas, like Austin in Chicago, can be a source of revenue for outlaying towns by “providing” inmates for the prisons in those towns. One must wonder if racism in pre-dominantly white town a product of the prison is also. The authors show us that what effects one small area can have a huge ripple effect.
If you are interested in the saving of cities, in the war on drugs, and violence in neighborhoods, then you need to read this book before we have a conversation. It should be required reading for anyone getting involved in community outreach or politics.
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