Racial Profiling Will “Save” Our Cities: A New Urban Agenda
Last week, Manhattan Institute Scholar Heather Mac Donald wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post calling out Senator Obama for failing to embrace “accountable, data-driven policing” in outlining his urban agenda to the U.S. Conference of Mayors last month. Ms. Mac Donald cites such policing as one of the primary reasons for New York City's comeback in the 1990s. (Data-driven policing seems awfully like racial profiling, to me. Oh yeah, Ms. Mac Donald wrote "The Myth of Racial Profiling" a few years back.)
Indeed, in the article she attacks:
[t]he received wisdom of the Great Society...that crime could be lowered only by eliminating its “root causes”: poverty and racism.
But Ms. Mac Donald's vision for cities doesn't end there. Instead of implementing an urban agenda that relies on state and local governments to plan and grow regional economies, Ms. Mac Donald suggested:
The best urban renewal strategy Obama could adopt would be to rebut the false charge that the criminal justice system is racist.
The piece’s argument against a federal agenda for cities is outdated and reinforces stereotypes that have for years simplistically identified urban areas with minorities, poverty, and crime. As Senator Obama emphasized in his speech to the Mayor’s Conference, cities and metropolitan areas may still contain the impoverished, but they are in fact defined by the solutions they offer to problems of economic stagnation, climate change, and globalization. And as Mayor L. Douglas Wilder of Richmond told me at the same Conference, “You can’t define problems anymore as urban problems or suburban problems.”
To assert that the best strategy for urban renewal is “to rebut the false charge that the criminal justice system is racist” is simply to insert racial politics into a debate more properly about multimodal transportation, green buildings, and sewage systems. Of course, removing the racial lens from Ms. Mac Donald’s argument somehow makes a federal urban agenda much more attractive, if less controversial.