Specifically, I would call attention to an excellent and thoughtful report, which is currently featured on the site. "Job Loss Didn't Make The Underclass" is an excellent and thoughtful analysis by Dr. John McWhorter, a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, of the evolution of Indianapolis' African-American community. As the title indicates, McWhorter debunks the myth that the de-industrialization of our inner city is the root cause of the economic and social plight faced by many inner city African-Americans. His analysis of the history of Indianapolis concludes that "culture is mightier than economics."
An insightful part of McWhorter's analysis compares the competing leadership in the African-American community as symbolized by Mattie Coney and Snookie Hendricks. McWhorter writes:
Out of the shadows crawled black “leaders” whom the old black Indianapolis would have run out of town in a week. Even before the 1969 riot, a petty crook, Snookie Hendricks, got the ear of a local white establishment jittery from seeing the race violence engulfing other American cities. Claiming that he was uniquely well placed to “maintain stability” among blacks, he won from city officials a municipal position—only to lose it for dealing drugs on the side. Fred Crawford, a Black Panther from Oakland, set up shop in Indianapolis, spouting regulation Panther rhetoric: “I don’t feel we can gain our freedom without a revolution. This could only happen if the white man raised his fist off the black man’s neck, but I don’t think he’ll ever do that.”
The old, go-getting black Indianapolis hadn’t completely vanished. Its spirit motivated schoolteacher Mattie Coney to found the Citizens Forum in 1966, just as things began to go bad. The Forum helped blacks clean up their increasingly disordered neighborhoods and point their children toward success. It established more than 3,000 block clubs over the years to sweep up trash and “de-rat-ify” vermin-infested buildings. It distributed a pamphlet urging black parents to teach their kids about cleanliness and polite conduct, and to take pride in themselves. Coney came from a solid working-class family that taught her that blacks’ road to salvation was to “quit feeling sorry for ourselves and take advantage of opportunities.” Lyndon B. Johnson granted her a special award for her efforts, and she won accolades from Presidents Eisenhower and Ford.
But in the new black Indianapolis, the Snookie Hendrickses seemed to outweigh the Mattie Coneys. The efforts of Coney and those like her weren’t enough to prevent inner-city breakdown. By the early nineties, the damage was inescapable and catastrophic. Blacks, just 21 percent of Indianapolis’s population, now committed 56 percent of its rapidly increasing violent crimes. Roughly one in ten of the city’s black males aged 16 to 24 was in jail; black boys were 43 percent of those in juvenile detention. In 1989, the city had 68 homicides; in 1991, 101; in 1998, 160. The majority of these were black-on-black murders . . .
The new black ideology taught that dressing down whitey for the sins of the past was “blacker” than facing what needed doing in the present. Under this new mind-set, someone like Mattie Coney, tirelessly seeking the uplift of the black community, was inauthentic—an “Aunt Jemima,” working for the racist establishment. Mmoja Ajabu, who during the nineties set up an Indianapolis branch of the New Black Panthers and tried to assemble a “militia” to overthrow the government, exemplified the authentic approach. “We know we are talking about death and destruction and grief in a whole lot of people’s families,” he said of his plans for social improvement. “But only then will they come to the negotiating table and talk candidly about getting something done.” Ajabu became embroiled in an arson case and then spent a year behind bars for threatening a prosecutor in another case. Some leader.
McWhorter offers two possible explanations for the city's current underclass. "Choice one: a new culture emerged of dependency and self-destructive hostility toward mainstream culture. Choice two: it got a little harder to get to work." He concludes, "A black history that endorses the second choice while dismissing the first substitutes playing the underdog for common sense."