An Associated Press report on small businesses hit with looting, fires and property destruction in Baltimore during the past several days wraps up with a final paragraph only a historically ignorant person could possibly believe.
Without getting too personal, David Dishneau and Joyce M. Rosenberg, the two AP writers responsible for that final sentence, appear to be old enough and learned enough to know better than to have written that final paragraph. But here it is:
Cities hit by riots in the 1960s have taken decades to recover. Rebuilding is still taking place in Newark, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C., and parts of Detroit have only recently started their recovery.
Setting Washington aside, the following list of comparative populations of cities "hit by riots" in the 1960s showing almost continually declining populations demonstrates that there hasn't been anything resembling a meaningful recovery in any of them. Baltimore is on that list:
While the overall U.S. population has grown by over 50 percent since 1965, from 200 million then to about 319 million now, the cities listed above have declined by a weighted-average of 40 percent. The lawlessness which took place during the mid-1960s in these cities and so many others has been an undeniable factor in persuading many residents in a position to do so to leave, and in convincing others moving into the respective metro areas not to live within the city limits.
Recent small population increases in some of the cities above cannot possibly be construed as anything more than the tiniest inklings of recovery — and Baltimore's has almost certainly been halted by this week's events.
Washington's population declined by 20 percent, or almost 200,000, from 1960 to 2000 (from 764,000 to 572,000), and has since gained back a significant portion of what was lost. But of course, as the nation's capital and the seat of continually growing and concentrated federal power, it's a special case (in so many ways).
In most if not all of these cities, the specific areas where the worst rioting took place are still mostly shells of their former selves. Think Avondale in Cincinnati, the Hough District in Cleveland, etc., etc.
What David Dishneau and Joyce M. Rosenberg needed to tell readers is the following: "Five decaes later, most cities hit by riots in the 1960s have not substantively recovered."
This fact places the permissive postures and actions of Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake in their proper light.
As the possibility of a riot looms, the choice between law enforcement which prevents serious property damage and just letting criminals run free, even for a few hours, is stark. If you bring all available resources to bear and stop lawlessness in its tracks, you convince residents that your city is a place where criminal activity won't be tolerated. If you don't, you convince them that they won't be safe. Many of them leave. They take their incomes and purchasing power with them, and for the most part don't come back, except perhaps to work. Eventually, a lot of those jobs go elsewhere too.
As noted earlier, I believe the two AP writers knew better than to believe what they wrote in their final paragraph. The charitable view is that they let a bit of optimism get in the way of good journalism. The not-so-charitable view is that they sugarcoated situations which have been intolerable for decades to protect the entrenched, irresponsible political classes in the cities involved.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.