Power to the people?

Black leaders stress the importance of political power and getting out the vote, but we might ask how important political power is to the ordinary black person.

As a start toward answering that question, we might examine black life in cities where blacks hold considerable political power. Detroit is the nation’s most dangerous city. Rounding out Forbes magazine’s 2013 list of the 10 most dangerous cities are Oakland, California; St. Louis; Memphis, Tennessee; Stockton, California; Birmingham, Alabama; Baltimore; Cleveland; Atlanta; and Milwaukee. According to a recent American Community Survey, by the U.S. Census Bureau, the 10 poorest cities with populations of more than 250,000 are Detroit, with 33 percent of its residents below the poverty line; Buffalo, New York, 30 percent; Cincinnati, 28 percent; Cleveland, 27 percent; Miami, 27 percent; St. Louis, 27 percent; El Paso, Texas, 26 percent; Milwaukee, 26 percent; Philadelphia, 25 percent; and Newark, New Jersey, 24 percent. In addition to poverty, there is grossly inferior education and high welfare dependency in these cities.

The most common feature of these cities is that for decades, all of them have had Democratic administrations. Some cities – such as Detroit, Buffalo, Newark and Philadelphia – haven’t elected a Republican mayor for more than a half-century. What’s more is that in most of these cities, blacks have been mayors, chiefs of police, school superintendents and principals and have dominated city councils.