Guns and Race

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette just published an article talking about how this has been the deadliest start to a year in over a decade in terms of gun violence. This is not the Pittsburgh I live in. If you look at the map in the article, you can see what I mean. I live in the middle of the large gray section in the eastern part of the city.

Pittsburgh has distinct neighborhoods. There are some diverse neighborhoods, but overall the city is heavily segregated by race and income. The schools are even more segregated. Gun violence (and violence in general) affects Black people here far more than other groups: between 2005 and 2019, 89% of homicide victims in Pittsburgh were Black despite Black people's making up only 22% of the city's population.

I don't know how we begin to address this problem when the city's largest newspaper won't mention the elephant in the room out of fear that people will think they're saying this is a "Black problem". But that's what people already think. And they already have a solution in mind: enact policies that drive away Black people. Pittsburgh has been doing this successfully for over a decade, and it's successfully reduced the city's Black population by making the city far less livable for Black people (especially Black women) than white people. But the people who leave are those who have the resources to leave. Which means those who remain are poorer.

The shootings are not a "Black problem", but Pittsburgh has made them its Black population's problem. They are a symptom of policies that lead to poverty, and to geographic concentration of poverty. Unless the city lives up to its "most livable city" reputation for all its residents, it won't be long before it's not a particularly livable city for anyone.