Tony Katz, the mouthy host of WIBC’s morning drive, is no dummy. His job is to provoke—outrage, mostly—and he’s good at it. Just yesterday, he was talking about the murder rate in Indianapolis and said he’d give Indianapolis Police Chief Troy Riggs—whom he liked—and Mayor Joe Hogsett—whom he didn’t know—some time to get it under control, but that it had better happen fast.
Or what? I wondered. Or Chief Riggs would be fired? Or Mayor Hogsett would lose the next election? Or he, Tony Katz, would personally strap up and patrol the east side with his band of vigilantes? What?
It’s that sort of stuff at infuriates me about talk radio hosts. They’re all lip and no teeth.
Last night, there were three murders in Indianapolis. So public safety was on Tony’s mind again. And this time, although he got there by a fairly crooked path, he managed to find a nugget of wisdom.
After reminding us that he, Tony Katz, was going to give Chief Riggs and Mayor Hogsett some time to succeed, he also wanted to make sure we all understood that this problem was not just going to go away. He said (I paraphrase) that we can assure ourselves that all of these murders happen in the same neighborhoods, that we can look at the crime maps, that we can say it’s all gang-related or all black-on-black crime, but we’re kidding ourselves if we don’t think it affects us. (Tony must have intel showing his listeners aren’t black.) I-465 is not a magic barrier. Murder in Indianapolis neighborhoods is bad for everyone.
He’s right, of course. If this is going to change, we’re all going to have to get busy.
Because up until now, for too many people, the solution has been simple: Don’t go to “those neighborhoods,” and you probably won’t get murdered. If you do, by chance or poor planning, have to drive through “those neighborhoods,” keep your doors locked and your eyes moving.
Which is the same as keeping your eyes closed.
Yes, we’ve got to deal with murders. We’ve got to support the police and help them bring murderers to justice.
But while incarcerating violent criminals may stop the bleeding, it won’t cure the disease. Violent crime in our city can be linked directly to the crippling cycle of poverty that has been spinning for decades. To stop the violence, you have to break the cycle.
It’s poverty that’s the real issue. Poverty, meaning having little or no money or goods or means of support.
And, because African-Americans are grossly overrepresented among the poor, the other real issue is hundreds of years of systemic racism in America.
Our systems created “those neighborhoods.” Our systems neglected schools and housing and health care and food security and transportation and public safety—so many factors that have conspired to keep our poor people poor and contained in “those neighborhoods.”
It really is time to do something. And we really do need the help of good people both inside and outside the I-465 beltway—especially if you hate big government as much as Tony Katz.
Poverty is complicated, but that also means there are lots of ways you can help. What moves you? Feeding people? Support Second Helpings. Education? Come see what a successful school in a tough neighborhood looks like. Homelessness? Here’s a place to start. Literacy? Here’s a writing program that’s been making a difference.
And that idea that people need to pick themselves up by their own bootstraps? Please. We’ve all heard stories about people who lift themselves out of poverty. They often talk about how they “got out” of that bad environment.
These people are extraordinary. Good for them.
But extraordinary people aren’t the only ones who deserve a better life. Across America, tens of millions of people are poor not because they’re lazy or stupid or bad, but because they were born poor, into a world designed to deny them opportunities to escape their poverty.
You can help provide those opportunities. Volunteer. Give. Get your hands dirty. Come and witness the issues firsthand and see how you can make a difference. If you live and work in Central Indiana—if you love the Colts and the Pacers and art and music and all the great restaurants and culture and opportunities you’re afforded by a great American city—you need to be part of the solution.
And just imagine what Indianapolis would be like if no one had to get of out of “those neighborhoods” because they were great places for people to live.