Insightful comment from Friend of the Room, and former po-po Peter Moskos:

I don't know why it shocked so many academics that moving people from urban public housing out to the suburbs would move many of their problems with them.

I don't know why it shocked so many academics to realize that moving troubled people into borderline neighborhoods could push some neighborhoods past a tipping point of decline.

Actually, I think I do know. Too many academics can only “see” in quantitative statistics. And these statistics see income, not culture. These statistics see the aggregate, not the individual. And academics generally practice social NIMBYism. I’d bet that almost no academic in support of moving public housing residents actually had a Section 8 home in their block or even a Section 8 kid in their children’s school. Sure, most Section 8 people are probably great. But it only takes one bad family to screw up a block. And if it’s not your block, it’s a lot easier to support Section 8.

But I also see a silver lining in watching some “urban” problems move out to the suburbs. By dispersing some problems previously isolated in “inner city” neighborhoods, perhaps more people will have to care about solutions. Perhaps we can stop blaming cities for urban woes and provide some real solutions.

America’s cities aren’t to blame for America’s poor and cities shouldn’t be exclusively responsibility for the poor. America—all of America—should help the less fortunate. And America—all of America—should share the fiscal costs and the risks that go with the link between poverty, race, and crime.

As a city resident, I’m quite happy to pay more taxes to help the needy. And as a city resident, I’m also quite happy to see some of the needy move somewhere else.

That being said, I also think we should legalize drugs. Nothing so simple could do so much good. I’ve written about this. There’s more at

I like to consider myself a public intellectual and I teach in a university. But Ta-Nehisi, I’ve also done the field work. So is it OK if I do NPR interviews? (I won’t even ask about “jacking off in the office.”)

Actually, Mr. Coates, I couldn’t agree with you more.

I had a very similar reaction "Duh" reaction when I read the piece. Some of it just seems like a lack of common sense. If you disperse poor people who live a crime ravaged area, I'm sure some of them will do better, but expect some of the crime to migrate with them. And if they go to more stable moderately poor areas, expect crime to rise. It seems like this all originates from an inability to distinguish between being a "have-not" and being a "social dysfunctionary." Those two things aren't the same. I have absolutely no problem with Section 8 being on my block. I want cops empowered to ignore dumb shit, and with freedom to bag violent offenders.

Anyway, for those that don't know, Peter worked as cop on the East Side of Baltimore, and has written a book about his time on the beat. For that Peter, you can go on NPR and talk as much as you want. I don't have a problem with people who do field work, or with reporters who give their subjects the attention they deserve. I love to hear from historians who can put it all in context. Unfortunately we've got a bunch of English, Philosophy, and "African-American Studies'" professors interpreting black people like s chapter from a Faulkner novel.

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