There is certainly a correlation between race and economics when it comes to communities within the United States.
A moderate working-class White community will change into an upper middle class Black community. It will be prestigious for a while, and then it will be targeted by bad policy. Over the years, erosion starts to sit in, and then crime invades its core. The crime gets so bad that property values start declining and the quality of life becomes pitiful. In a few decades you have what is known as a "golden ghetto." The final act is drug infestation. Why does this happen?
As my relatives emigrated from Louisiana to Los Angeles in the 1940s and '50s, I saw communities make the above transition. There was "Lovely Compton." Two of my cousins integrated Fremont High, and another cousin helped integrate Washington High. My Aunt Mary and her clan integrated Inglewood. Aunt Lula and her clan bought a house at Hoover and Florence across the street from a synagogue.
Decades later, the Rodney King riot would erupt three blocks down the street. These once fashionable places are now just dots on a map of an urban area made infamous in the great film "Boys in the Hood."
When I was discharged from the Army in 1974, Procter & Gamble assigned me to Detroit. Beautiful neighborhoods like Rosedale Park and Palmer Woods were heading south with a bullet — a whole lot of bullets. It hit bottom with the eruptions of the inevitable drug wars.
The most prestigious Black county in the United States today is the Washington, D.C. suburb of Prince Georges County, Md. It has the highest Black family income in the nation, which makes it a target for bad policy to be followed by crime and drug infestation.
Keep in mind this is the same place where pro-segregationist and presidential hopeful George Wallace was shot while addressing his base. That base, White and very anti-Black, was set on preventing any mixing and integration of race. The Fair Housing Act and affirmative action for high-paying federal jobs changed all of that.
Recently, I read a few studies that showed the General Services Administration (landlord for federal offices) had a systematic way of redlining Prince Georges County from any regional development. Its affect after decades was starting to take its toll.
The majority of workers had to travel out of the county; 35 percent of all Beltway travelers are commuters from Prince Georges County. It is a county that is overly residential and lacking in business vitality — retail, industrial and office space. I told two Congressional officials based in the county that I feared a downward transition, like those experienced in Inglewood or Compton. They both assured me that nothing of its kind would happen in Prince Georges County.
So let's take a quick look. My two sons go to the University of Maryland, which is in Prince Georges County. University of Maryland consistently has one of the highest crime rates among U.S. colleges. Last semester, a fellow athlete of theirs answered his dorm door. A hit man pushed his way in and put a gun to his head and said, "You didn't deliver the stash and now you have to go."
It took him 10 long minutes to persuade the assassin that it was his roommate or someone else he was after. He moved out of the dorm but was never the same. He is leaving at the end of this semester.
Two blocks down the street from my boys, a home was recently invaded by robbers. One of the victims called 911 as he hid in a closet. The cops arrived and demanded that the robbers come out. They chose to come out with guns a-blazing. The cops won — one thug dead, one thug wounded and one escaped.
There are so many burglaries in their neighborhood my sons and their roommates pitched in and bought a dog — a Rottweiler/ German Shepherd — to watch the house while they attend class.
Daily, and I mean daily, carjackings, rapes, kidnappings, home invasions, murders, etc. dominate the news coming out of Prince Georges County. And Washington, D.C. has nothing on it. In fact, the D.C. chief of police had his personal car stolen, and they found it abandoned in Prince Georges County.
A few days ago we hit rock bottom. A board member of the National Black Chamber of Commerce had his home invaded at night. They tied up his three children, struck his wife and demanded, with a gun to his head, "cash, jewelry and drugs."
This is horrifying. It is happening with reckless abandon and is starting to get very personal. I am going to sound the alarm. Let's protect our communities.
Harry C. Alford is the president/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce.