Growing up in Black America

A chillingly matter-of-fact “piece in Salon”:http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/2006/08/25/crime_essay/print.html today about what could get you killed in the inner cities of America twenty years ago — wearing anything that made you look rich or successful. Today, however, you will get killed and they won’t even bother to rob your corpse. Being a known killer conveys worthwhile status, whereas the kind of possessions which can give status are now completely out of reach — Bentleys, for example. You can’t steal one of those from a corpse in the streets.

That this story should be the latest example of nostalgic writing about how things were better when the author was a boy — because then he knew what might get him shot — is not something I might ever have imagined. Absolutely everything I believed about progress when I was a child was wrong, except, perhaps, that it can always go backwards.

The interesting question is how we might stop such a development in Europe. Clearly, American model capitalism won’t do it. Prosperity on its own won’t do it, either, even if it is on offer, which may not be the case.

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