This brand of thinking, which I call the riot ideology, influenced urban politics for a generation. Perhaps its model city was Baltimore, which was consumed in 1968 by race riots so intense that the Baltimore police, 500 Maryland state troopers and 6,000 National Guardsmen were unable to quell them. The “insurrection” was halted only when nearly 5,000 federal troops requested by Maryland Gov. Spiro Agnew arrived.
Since 1968, Baltimore has proved remarkably adept at procuring state and federal funds, but never really recovered from the riots. And the lawlessness never fully subsided. What began as a grand bargain to avert further racial violence after 1968 descended over the decades into a series of squalid shakedowns. Antipoverty programs that had once promised to repair social and family breakdown became by the 1990s self-justifying and self-perpetuating.
In the wake of the 2014 riots in Ferguson, Missouri, and the 2015 West Baltimore riots, a new riot ideology has taken hold, one similarly intoxicated with violence and willing to excuse it, but with a different goal. The first version of the riot ideology assumed that not only cities, but also whites could be reformed; the new version assumes that America is inherently racist beyond redemption and that the black inner city needs to segregate itself from the larger society.