By Rev. Donald L. Perryman, Ph.D.
The Truth Contributor
Many of today’s problems in the inner-city crime, dissolution of family, welfare – are fundamentally a consequence of the disappearance of work. – William Julius Wilson
Violent crime has emerged as the essential theme of Toledo’s current mayoral campaign. Homicides are at record levels, and violent crime has risen each of the past five years, motivating “Tough on Crime” mayoral candidates Jan Scotland and Carty Finkbeiner to challenge incumbent Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz.
A central feature of the Scotland campaign strongly denounces the proponents of de-policing policies such as defunding the police.
Finkbeiner has criticized the City’s Safety leadership, including the Police Chief and Safety Director while promoting golden oldies methods such as partnerships between State, Local and Federal crime enforcement, gun buy-backs, curfews, and stepped-up targeted urban patrols. The three-time former Mayor has also blamed the rise in violent crime on other worn-out law and order themes such as the “absence of black fathers.”
Clearly, for Toledo voters, is that crime is “always on my mind.”
And, notably, despite the challengers’ use of racial stereotypes in political messaging and proposals that come close to the unconstitutional “stop and frisk” policies of the past, many residents of heavily black neighborhoods, tired of record homicides and other violence, prefer more rather than less policing.
One only has to look to the recent New York City mayoral primary, where former policeman and outspoken defund-the-police critic Eric Adams defeated other Democratic Party progressives such as Maya Wiley, Kathryn Garcia, and Andrew Yang. Though shunned by affluent voters and white liberals, Adams was the only candidate to carry most predominately black districts.
Certainly, Toledo is no New York City. Still, many of the policies supported by progressives like Kapszukiewicz are rejected by African Americans and people of color when it comes to policing.
Can Kapszukiewicz Win Without Black Support?
While crime dominates the political conversation, rather than push back on his supporters in the white community, where stop and frisk policies aren’t an issue, the incumbent Mayor’s response to the crime problem has been low-key. Instead, quietly, Kapszukiewicz began to tackle violence as a public health problem and other new progressive safe-city models in 2020 that achieve results over time.
“Right now, I see this as a national problem that every big city in this country is facing, and it’s something that cannot be solved overnight, and anyone who tells you it can be is lying to you,” he insists. “It takes some time.”
Kapszukiewicz recently hired ex-professional athlete Jojuan Armour to head the Mayor’s Initiative to Reduce Gun Violence. This program utilizes violence interrupters to adjudicate conflict in the community before it gets to the police level.
Yet, inner-city residents feel that other City strategies like raiding after-hour joints are ineffective. They also think that arresting outspoken critics who violate “rules” to sit in an unoccupied front row of a municipal meeting is misguided. On top of that, the police harassment of a vocal activist while bar-b-queing and having a glass of wine behind the Jamaican club at Upton and Bancroft was another insult.
We are running out of time. What can we do?
The mayoral candidates’ solutions look at symptoms rather than root causes of the crime problem.
Even a casual student knows that gun violence is the visible manifestation of hopelessness. And, unfortunately, some have figured there’s no way out, “so to hell with the system since we are not going to be a part of it,” they demonstrate.
The trauma of being excluded from the economy is a significant factor leading to nihilism. Scholar Lewis Brogdon calls gun violence the “counterproductive responses from those that are frustrated, sad, depressed, and angry.” As a result, victims of generational poverty cope with an “I don’t give a F#@* “attitude, withdraw from the mainstream, and exhibit “rampant despair, animosity, resentment, and reckless thinking and behaving.”
Currently, our community is also still feeling the brunt of COVID, which helped hopelessness to flourish. The pandemic generated additional trauma upon those simultaneously trying to survive continuing community traumatization. So, the resulting increase in gun violence is not surprising.
Toledo’s voters want to see a clear plan that goes after the root cause of gun violence. However, unfortunately, no candidates are talking about swiftly addressing generational poverty. Nor are they proposing tearing down the Cherrywood projects, for instance, and providing better housing that’s equitable, fair, and dignified.
Let’s provide permanent living wage jobs for teens and young adults. Let’s pass over paving roads this go round and fund black businesses and black nonprofits familiar with those closest to the problem.
The key to solving gun violence is hope. And, hope flourishes when there is economic inclusion, equity, and dignity.
It’s branch and root time for the mayoral candidates. Those that look at the leaves on the trees are missing the root and branches problem. We shall see which mayoral candidate can see the whole picture.
Contact Rev. Donald Perryman, PhD, at firstname.lastname@example.org