Fix the Ghetto


Fear, anger, cries of racism. This is what seems to envelop America these days. It’s all dished up daily by presidential candidates and the media. There are so many people taking offense to what others say or do that I can’t keep track of it all. It’s exhausting.

A restaurant owner in Albuquerque, New Mexico, recently came up with a new recipe for tuna with black olive tapenade, and to promote it he printed T-shirts with the slogan “Black Olives Matter.” That might be amusing at any other time in our history, but not now. Supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement immediately made it clear they thought the promotion was racist, not clever.

Last weekend, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, there was a shooting involving police, and before the facts were even known a devastating riot broke out. Cries of police brutality and institutional racism filled the air. Seven officers were injured, and an 18 year old was shot in the neck.

Here are the facts: An armed black suspect named Sylville K. Smith, 23, was driving a stolen vehicle, stopped the car and ran from police. According to the local police Chief Edward A. Flynn, who viewed body-camera video of the event, the suspect stopped running and turned toward police holding a gun. Smith, a man with a long police record, refused to drop his gun when officers ordered. That’s when an officer shot him.

In what world is this a racist event? The unidentified officer is black. Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke is black. In what universe is this considered police brutality? I’m left with the conclusion that some segments of America don’t want truth, they want to make trouble. They want to blame others for what they have not achieved in life. They want to rampage through the streets, destroying their own communities without a thought to what such senseless acts achieve.

And when people like that take to the streets to set fires, loot stores and shoot guns into the air — or at other people — who is expected to come to the rescue? The police, of course.

At what point do we acknowledge that our societal problems are not all about racism? When do we admit that there is an ugly cancer festering in urban areas across the nation and that it has little to do with the police? It has everything to do with the behavior of a relatively small group of bad actors in those communities.

As Sheriff Clarke pointed out, there exists a very real and very volatile mix of urban pathologies in minority communities today, created by decades of failed policies that only exacerbated poverty and nurtured its frequent companion: crime. Police didn’t create the situation. They only respond to the aftermath.

Clarke told reporters: “Failed urban policy (exacerbates) inescapable poverty, failing public schools, inadequate parenting, father-absent homes. We all know when fathers are not around to shape the behavior of young boys, they oftentimes grow up to be unmanageable misfits that police have to deal with in an aggressive fashion.”

And then came the zinger from this African-American sheriff, who often talks about the lack of family values in today’s inner cities. He said: “Stop trying to fix the police. Fix the ghetto.”

Bravo for the blunt assessment. And Clarke is not the only black law enforcement official to challenge those neighborhoods plagued by drugs, gangs, poor schools and a culture that relies on government handouts.

Dallas, Texas, police Chief David Brown, who lost five officers and saw seven more wounded when a crazed gunman interrupted an anti-police protest last month, agrees.

He said: “We’re asking cops to do too much in this country. Every societal failure, we put it off on the cops. Not enough mental health funding? Let the cops handle it. Not enough drug funding? Let’s give it to the cops. … The schools fail, give it to the cops. … That’s too much to ask.”

Brown issued a challenge to protestors to abandon the marches and riots and do something positive like joining the police force, just as he did when he tired of seeing his friends succumb to the crack epidemic.

“We’re hiring,” Brown said. “Get out of the protest line and fill out an application.”

Look, since President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society reform, America has poured billions of dollars into programs designed to give folks who live in what Clarke calls “the ghetto” a hand up and a way out of their environment. Yet the perpetual problems with crime persist.

Now it’s time for residents to realize there is only one way to combat their daily anxiety — by joining with police to help wipe out crime in their neighborhoods. Community leaders and clergy must persuade citizens to help police by reporting crimes, illegal guns, drugs and other activities that erode their quality of life. It’s the only way their children will be able to break the cycle and thrive without fear — fear of the criminals or the police.

Rockland resident Diane Dimond is a syndicated columnist, author, regular guest on TV news programs, and correspondent for Newsweek/Daily Beast. Visit her at or reach her via email

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