If you live in the Atlanta area, you likely have been inundated with endless stories about the rise of crime that has been occurring in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. People getting shot in road rage incidents, people being killed for urging others to wear face masks, petty-bourgeois Buckhead residents wanting to create their own city to protect themselves from being robbed, and so much more are just some of the stories about crime that have made headlines.
Homicide rates in Atlanta have increased by 59 percent this year compared to 2020. Rape, assaults, and car robberies have increased by more than 30 percent during the same time period. The capitalist press harps on about what Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, mayoral candidates, officials from the governor’s office, and the police are doing to address crime and prevent it.
Recently, Governor Brian Kemp has funneled $5 million worth of emergency funds to law enforcement to solve the rising crime rate across the state, while Senator Jon Ossoff has invited the ATF and DEA to Atlanta to address crime. Fighting crime has become a sort of competition between the two major political parties in Georgia, with Democrats and Republicans rushing to determine who can fund the police and federal law enforcement first. But the idea that one can stop crime with policing is a farce. It will not work and senseless homicides, gang activity, robberies, and much more will never end as long as capitalism and white supremacy exist.
The mainstream press is unwilling to investigate the true causes of crime, but to those who understand the physical realities of homelessness, unemployment, and an overall lack of resources for Black, Brown, and working-class people, the causes and solutions to what this capitalist society considers crime can be obvious. To be blunt, the ultimate causes of crime are capitalism and white supremacy. The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated many working-class people living in Georgia, with Black and Latino workers being hit the hardest.
Since the pandemic began in 2020, the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute states Black women face disproportionately high rates of unemployment. Over 19 percent of Latino women were without jobs during the second quarter of 2020. The same GBPI study also says that in February of this year, Black Georgian workers filed unemployment claims that were 52 percent higher than all filers and 71 percent higher than white workers.
As Black and Brown people are disproportionately left without jobs, they are also being evicted, which has only been exacerbated by the pandemic and greedy landlords taking advantage of moneyless people of color. Even with the presence of unemployment benefits, not everyone received benefits when they were fired. Additionally, Kemp is looking to cut unemployment months before it is supposed to end.
The state is leaving people with no money and no housing. People lacking these two essential resources create the conditions for crime. It is no coincidence that lower-income areas are ripe with shootings, assaults, and robberies and wealthy areas are not. People with lower incomes do not have the financial resources to create comfortable homes, hire babysitters, have cars, and so naturally, some people resort to desperate measures to be able to have money and feed themselves and their families.
The existence of white supremacy also means that police are overly present in Black and Brown neighborhoods and schools, ready to send people to jail or kill them. The difficulties that people who have been incarcerated have finding jobs after getting out of jail is tremendous. Combine that with discrimination in hiring practices, and that can create the perfect material conditions for crime. Some formerly incarcerated people, having a tough time finding a job that will support them and possibly their family as well, return back to crime to be able to survive in the capitalist hellscape that is the US.
The toll that police killings have on Black and Brown communities is multifaceted. The communities must deal with the grief and trauma of losing a loved one as well as possibly losing a source of income. Furthermore, the robberies in the affluent, predominantly white area of Buckhead at the most basic level symbolizes the giant disparities between Buckhead residents and the poor areas surrounding the community.
While Buckhead residents cower in fear over items in their luxury vehicles being stolen, only a few minutes away in the Atlanta area, many working-class Black folks are wondering how they will be able to afford housing in an increasingly gentrified city.
Rather than the state providing poor and working-class people with steady, living wages and free, comfortable housing, the state resorts to taking away the little resources that working-class people have left, digging a deeper hole for working, unemployed, and homeless people.
The idea that increasing police presence to stop crime is laughable, as the police do not prevent crime and almost always show up after the crime has been committed. In fact, multiple situations across the country have shown that violent crime rates have gone down as the number of police employed decreases. This has been the case in Memphis, Tennessee, as well as New York City.
This is not what elected officials want to hear. Politicians supporting an increased police presence right after the US had its largest uprising in history against police terror cannot be a coincidence and is a huge slap in the face to everyone who fights to defund and abolish the police.
The police exist to maintain the status quo of capitalism and white supremacy, and when politicians like Bottoms and Kemp support more policing, they are advancing the status quo and evils of capitalism and white supremacy. Maintaining the status quo means that at the end of the day, nothing has changed for working people. In order to stop crime, more police are and cannot the answer. We, the working class, the poor, the unemployed and underemployed, must fight to end capitalism and white supremacy.
Capitalism keeps the working class out of jobs while contradictorily telling those people they must find work or else live an impoverished life. As people have no work and no money, they seek other ways to make up for that, and that can be through crime. The added oppression of white supremacy keeps Black and Brown people unemployed and constantly policed. Capitalism and white supremacy create the conditions for crime. If we change the material conditions through socialist revolution, we can exist in a world where everyone can have a steady income and free, safe housing.
By Marvel Robinson