Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Could the London Riots happen here?
It is very unlikely that anything similar would happen here. I credit Hollywood, community colleges, and improvements in policing. Guns, the death of "mom and pop" retailing, poorly developed public transportation, and a strong black-market for drugs should probably get honorable mentions.
Hollywood sells the dream, quite effectively, that you too can be Jennifer Lopez or Snoop Dogg, Snooki. If this is the prevailing notion, its more difficult to collect enough hopeless youth to make a riot. Moreover, fantasies are not the only dreams being sold. Community colleges take everyone, are affordable, and help lift folks, including those who once dropped out of school, and create a sense of success in a population that might not feel it otherwise. Finally, our police departments more and more do reflect the populations that they police. Look at the London pictures. If their police department is substantially integrated its not coming across in pictures.
Secondly, we are not tremendously mobile. The U.S. is a big place and if you don't have a car you cannot get to Walmart very easily to loot or riot, and even if you do, how will you get home? And if you do have a car, you probably worked hard enough to get it that you don't want to risk it by rioting. Certainly there are smaller shops in large cities. Many such shops were targeted during the L.A. riots--including many operated by unarmed Koreans and other Asians. Think they're still unarmed? That is one big difference in this country: thieves have as much or more to fear from the gun behind the counter than from the police. Could they bring their own guns? Sure. But it takes a different level of brazenness to rob at gun point than to help yourself to wine while everyone stands aside. At minimum, any rioting here would be a lot more deadly, even if fewer people were involved. That alone, I think, would discourage wider participation.
Finally, have you watched the Wire? Do you know how much work it is be a criminal? This country has a lot of industrious folks who are not represented in our employment and unemployment numbers.
Whatever the numbers say about a growing divide in wealth, Americans do not sense this very strongly. Everyone here is a potential millionaire if not billionaire. Who wants to destroy that?
If there are riots they will only occur in downtown areas and wont be spread out like London.
I could be completely wrong...