As of this writing, there have been 298 homicide victims this year here in Philly, a 14% increase since 2016. That is consistent with the national trend of rising homicides, for which we may thank Obama’s opposition to “racist” stop-and-frisk policing. 2015, for example, saw the largest one-year surge in homicides in cities in almost a half century. There is, on average, a shooting every six hours in the City of Brotherly Love, and were it not for our many fine doctors and nurses, that 298 would be a much higher figure. Most of the victims are black, as are most of the murderers. Indeed, at only 13% of the U.S. population, blacks account for almost half of all total homicide victims and more than half of all murderers. And the vast majority of each are black men under 40. Imagining our cities without young black men is rather like imagining the West without jihadists: Both would be a lot safer.
These statistics are, of course, consistent with people’s common experience, which could hardly be more politically incorrect. Like Chicago and Baltimore, Philly is pretty segregated, and everybody knows that the dangerous areas are the black neighborhoods, mostly in North and West Philly. The business owners there are mostly white and Asian, the same people who pay the most into the welfare state on which blacks, more than any other race, depend. Like blacks themselves (as long as they are honest), these persons know that in black neighborhoods diligent law enforcement and reliable security measures are as necessary as cocoa butter.
And yet, Cindy Bass, a black councilwoman from the 8th District, has filed a bill that would require store owners to take down Plexiglas, a bulletproof material that has long been used to protect store owners from the violent young black thugs who plague the city. “We want to make sure,” Bass explains, “that there isn’t this indignity…to serving food though Plexiglas only in certain neighborhoods.” But those neighborhoods, responds everyone who can think, are the only ones in which the Plexiglas is needed.
“Without the glass,” says store owner Jeff Liu, “maybe one day I would get killed.” His fear is well-founded. Once, after Liu quarreled with a man who had been selling drugs in his deli, the dignified fellow returned with a rifle and shot up Liu’s car. And, as The Philadelphia Inquirer reports, “the deli’s previous owner, Bill Chow, said a customer who claimed Chow shortchanged him threw bleach at him through an opening in the window even after he showed the man the surveillance video disproving his claim.”
“Each new generation born,” says the great Thomas Sowell, “is in effect an invasion of civilization by little barbarians, who must be civilized before it is too late.” That “too late” refers to a condition of perpetual childhood. You never grow up or become self-reliant, but want others to accommodate your barbarism. Like most Democrats, Cindy Bass’ message to blacks is: “You shall remain children.” Rather than joining Sowell, Walter Williams, Larry Elder, and other leading black intellectuals in calling for black men and women to take control of their lives and strive to improve their communities, Bass advocates destructive law-by-resentment. Consider her logic. Blacks, by their own actions, are a constant threat to themselves and others. Therefore, a law should be passed that would have the effect of making store owners a lot less safe from this singularly violent people. Could anything be more lunatic?
Bass is deeply sincere and well-meaning, but as I noted in my last column, that is precisely the problem today: There are a great many people like her, whose views derive from mere emotion, and hence make things a lot worse. Nothing could be more harmful than an approach that makes facts subordinate to how we want life to be, as if truth or what is reasonable were determined by feelings. It upsets Bass that there are Plexiglas windows only in black neighborhoods, so she sets out to get rid of them, as if her own feelings were more important than the dire issue of safety. In effect, Bass seeks to punish the store owners—who are mostly whites and Asians—for the evils that blacks do. There is not a nonblack neighborhood in America that needs Plexiglas in store windows. By Bass’ logic, that would seem to be wrong, since it suggests by comparison the “indignity” of blacks (as if that indignity were not deserved, being a reflection of their own behavior).
Let me now quote Bass at some length. Doing so will put the issue in greater context, and give a better sense of where she stands.
In Pennsylvania, private owners can’t operate liquor stores. That’s what the state Fine Wine and Good Spirits stores do. But private owners can run restaurants that sell alcohol to their customers to drink while they eat.
The stop-and-go stores have state liquor licenses as if they were restaurants, but they’re not even close. They are in fact liquor outlets. They don’t have 30 seats; most don’t have any. They don’t prepare or serve food; if you ask, most will show you a single plastic cup of dried Ramen noodles. But for years the ineffective state Liquor Control Board has turned a blind eye to the stop-and-gos’ blatant disregard for the law.
They sell bottles of beer to drink off premises and shots of liquor for people to drink on the spot. Oh, and they also sell candy-flavored cigarillos to get kids hooked on smoking and big boxes of cold medicines that can be turned into street drugs, but they don’t sell much else.
The U.S. Public Health Service has determined that having a large number of liquor outlets in a neighborhood increases excessive drinking and violence in that neighborhood. And the stop-and-go stores in Philadelphia are indeed cancers on their neighborhoods, attracting drunkenness, loitering, noise, disorder, crime, and violence.
And so my bill would define a large establishment—large enough to have a liquor license—to be a real restaurant, aligning the definition with state law. Under the bill, a large restaurant must have a minimum of 30 seats for customers and at least one customer-accessible bathroom. And as it was originally drafted, the bill would prohibit an interior Plexiglas barrier between customers and staff. True restaurants don’t have a problem with any of these requirements. When was the last time you sat at a table at an actual restaurant for a meal—but had to pick up your food through a filthy hole in an interior Plexiglas wall?
My bill also creates a definition for small establishments, like takeout restaurants and convenience stores that sell sandwiches. These places have fewer than 30 seats, and under the bill they could have Plexiglas barriers. As the state law is written, they wouldn’t be eligible for liquor licenses.
As I say, Bass means well, and we see it here. There are so many of these stores in Philly in part because of the state’s outdated liquor laws. Unlike in most states, in Pennsylvania you can’t just buy alcohol in supermarkets and gas stations. And Bass is certainly right that the stores are only pretending to be restaurants, which, however, the state doesn’t mind, so long as the owners pay taxes. The problem is that Bass’ “solution” is marked by the same blind emotionalism that prompted her to devise it. It is utter madness. “The cancers on their neighborhoods” are the people themselves who choose to live lives of vice and crime. Bass’ very grammar indicates her deluded sensibility. In her sentences, blacks are passive objects of the terrible subjects: “Stores” try to “get kids hooked on smoking and big boxes of cold medicines that can be turned into street drugs…attracting drunkenness, loitering, noise, disorder, crime, and violence.” It is almost as if the mere existence of the stores meant that blacks have no agency. We are told the Plexiglas is “filthy,” but that seems a bit of projection: As everyone who has been to these neighborhoods knows, filth and litter abound, yet that is not because of the minority of store owners, but because of the persons whom Bass aims to “help.”