The rioting that swept Baltimore the past few days, sadly, was no exception, but part of a bigger trend in some of our core cities towards social and economic collapse. Rather than enjoying the much ballyhooed urban “renaissance,” many of these cities are actually in terrible shape, with miserable schools, struggling economies and a large segmented of alienated, mostly minority youths.
We are witnessing an unwelcome reprise of the bad old days of the late ’60s, when much of American core cities went up in smoke. Already this year there have been serious disturbances in St. Louis as well as neighboring Ferguson. There’s also been a cascading of urban violence in cities such as Chicago, where the murder rate in 2013 exceeded that of the Capone era. Overall, the geography of fear remains very much what it was a half century ago. The most dangerous places in in the U.S. in terms of violent crime tend to be heavily black cities, led by Detroit, Oakland, Memphis, St. Louis, and Cleveland. Baltimore ranks sixth.
Of course not everything is as it was. Some cities, notably New York and Los Angeles, are much safer today, and there remains a strong pull for younger people, particularly the well-educated, to move to core cities, at least in their 20s. Black urban professionals enjoy opportunities that were rare a generation ago to reach the highest levels in our most elite cities.