Gambling, alcoholism, and racial discrimination

7 July 2016

Gambling, alcoholism, and racial discrimination in our urban community dates back to before the Great Depression. A major part of the United States of America’s history, gambling and alcohol abuse took on a major role during the Great Depression. When African-Americans moved north, they struggled with the need to make money because the formal economy was weak and unwelcoming for those looking to get their first real job. There was a major allure to the informal economic sector of gambling for migrants who were looking for success and a better life in the North then they had in the southern states.

Even for those who were barely scraping through the Depression, “numbers gambling [was] part of a burgeoning urban economy that helped many African-American entrepreneurs survive the ravages of the Great Depression” (Wolcott, 1997, p. 49). However, promoting a promise of a better life in the northern cities, already established black community leaders in the north had other hopeful plans for the newly arrived migrants. Many city and church leaders tried to teach those migrating from the south how to find respectable jobs and work hard for their money.

Gambling, alcoholism, and racial discrimination Essay Example

Nevertheless the appeal of being given “the opportunity to gamble small amounts of money for a relatively high rate of return” (Wolcott, 1997, p. 47) was a constant temptation for new arrivals. At the height of its popularity in Detroit, “bank[s] employed between three hundred and five hundred writers or runners who solicited bets on street comers, barbershops, pool rooms, and even door to door” (Wolcott, 1997, 53). It has been shown in previous studies of African American studies that “the family structure, criminal behavior, and “welfare dependency” of urban African Americans”(Wolcott, 1997, p.

48) are sought out to be the causes of urban disparity rather than looking at the economic bigger picture. Wolcott (1997) makes reference to how African-American community leaders hoped to change their role in the urban workforce: “The informal economy is often an imagined category, a legalistic distinction not always made in the reality of everyday life. This is perhaps most true during the inter-war period in urban America when Prohibition led to the spectacular rise of organized crime, and most Americans broke the law on a regular basis by taking an occasional drink” (p.

49). Many African-American community leaders, however, saw the distinction as an important one as they sought to guide the behavior of new migrants in the 1910s and 1920s. Alcohol has long been a part of culture in the United States and abroad, as it has been used in medicine, socially, as illegal substance during the Prohibition and has been overly abused. “Drinking has been identified as an important component of the night-time economy, club cultures, youth cultures, pub life, postindustrial identities and lifestyles. ” (Jayne, Holloway, & Valentine, 2006, p.

452) Workers often came home from long days in factories, hitting the pub for a few drinks on their way. Some could not handle the pressures of urban living and when factories needed to increase production the “long-held practices such as the infamous ‘Saint Monday’, an unofficial holiday where no work was done for the first two days of the week due to excessive drinking, were hard to eradicate” (p. 453). There was a lot to be said for the rough changes throughout urban life that occurred between the Industrial period and through the Great Depression.

There is a hypothesis by Valdez, Kaplan, & Curtis (2007) that theorizes “that alcohol and drug use will be significantly related to aggressive crime, but that specific individual-level social characteristics and community level concentrated poverty variables will mediate this relationship” (p. 596). In Valdez’s study of alcohol and drug use in urban communities he found that “a positive response on alcohol use increased the likelihood of being charged with an aggressive crime” (p. 600). They were able to show that in urban communities there is a strong correlation between those who abuse alcohol and aggressive crime.

Between the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries there was much change going on in the United States. Major cities within the U. S. “ [were] central to bourgeois attempts to corral working-class people into particular residential and industrial areas, and in particular to banish working-class consumption cultures from central urban spaces and places. ” (p. 453). Urban cities were supposed to be a promised land. However they were crowded, creating poor living conditions, unsanitary, unstructured living spaces, and an empty promise for those who migrated north during the Great Migration.

According to Wolcott, city leaders tried to encourage migrates to engage “in the formal economy as responsible workers and citizens, they argued, southern migrants could convince white city leaders and employers that the African-American community was worthy of expanded services and job opportunities. ” (p. 51). Many people who started off in the “formal economy” often found that working for low wages was not as productive. For example: Millie “made the decision to leave domestic service to become a prostitute because she found it difficult to live on the low wages offered by her white employers. ” (p. 51).

For many southern migrants it was easier to get into the numbers bank- mostly as runner or clerks; “many African-American residents credited the numbers game with helping Detroit blacks survive the ravages of the Depression” (p. 55). We can see how many of the themes of black culture in the early nineteenth century have carried over to the modern era. It seems though that in today’s economy and urban community, we are seeing African American adolescents picking up the habits of their surroundings. For example, “perceiving parent gambling and friend models for problem behavior were positively correlated with gambling problems.

” (Wickwire, Whelan, Meyers, & Murray, 2007, p. 179) They are more likely to start experimenting with drugs, alcohol, and gambling when they have some type of exposure to it. Along with the risk due to exposure, adolecentsadolescents who partake in one type of illegal activity are more prone to partake in others. According to a study by Wickwire (2007) “adolescents who gamble problematically appear at least twice as likely to use alcohol, or marijuana and other illicit substances as are their “no problem gambling” classmates” (p. 180).

They, much like their ancestors, want an easy way to make money but are either not able to get a job or their parents cannot or will not provide them with an allowance. There are high risks for these adolescents they “risk financial difficulties, and as gambling is illegal for minors, they also risk legal trouble. ” (p. 180). This information is only a foreshadow of what our future generation is bringing to the table for the urban community. Although many adolescents acknowledge their problem openly, they know little about how to get help or do not perceive it to be a problem because they are young.

Those who are likely to have a gambling problem are exposed to it early, and it does not seem to matter if they are male or female. We can see a high correlation of this in Wickwire’s (2007) study: “Within a sample of urban, predominantly African- American youth, rates of problematic gambling were found to be high for both genders, and perceived environment variables accounted for significant variance in gambling problems and gambling frequency” (p. 186) Those who are grow up in the environment of obsessive gambling often see it as normal or that it does not affect them, their family, or the people around them.

The “adolescents who reported that at least one parent gambles were more likely to self-identify as having gambling problems compared to adolescents who reported no parent gambling” (p. 188). Wickwire and his team “found notably high rates of regular, at-risk, and problem gambling, and these findings indicate that gambling behavior in this population demands further research attention” (p. 188). Casinos and the environment that they are formed in can have an important role in an urban community’s economy.

It seems to show that when a casino first opens in an urban environment, it has a positive effect on the community and the people who live within it. It seems that “regardless of the casino’s theme, the swashbuckler economy of Las Vegas perennially played on codes of opportunity, adventure, hospitality and liberal morality associated with the frontier myth” (Jones, 2010, 106). Vegas is a success story for those who lived on the western frontier, however in Tunica, Mississippi (another casino town) there is a much different story- many of the black residents of the county are still in poverty.

Derrick Crawford “points out that one kind of employer cannot possibly suit every potential employee and that for religious reasons alone many of Tunica’s blacks would rather be unemployed than work in a casino” (Schwarz & Schwarz, 1996, p. 74). Tunica is a city who’s “promoters are pushing for the kind of development that will make the county what they call a ‘destination. ‘”(” (p. 74). If a region is creating change that is unwanted by its current residents it may still fail, especially if the statistics of the region do not improve or worsen.

Tunica is far from becoming a mainstream tourist attraction, with the heart of all of the regions problems being race. “Race relations influence Tunica’s response to its new wealth, and in this way the county’s plans for its future are the inevitable flowering of its history” (p. 76). While white residents want to improve the economy of the southern county, “the black population, for its part, seems pretty well convinced that its fortunes in Tunica will never change” (p. 80).

According to Schwarz the black population believes that: “historically such efforts have been designed to retain and increase the minority white population rather than to create employment for blacks. Many of Tunica’s whites, it seems, see casino gambling as a means to transform Tunica into a white middle-class exurb of Memphis” (p. 80). For the black community, it seems they fear that their county will become more about industry and gambling and that their presence will diminish and their misfortunes will only continue.

“Tunica can disassociate itself from the county’s problems by equating them with the black population-much the way whites in Los Angeles, say, view their city’s impoverished minorities as a foreign presence imposed on the place, depressing the economy and culture”(p. 82). The only way it economy can and will become closer to an urban environment is if race ceases to be a major issue in the county. In the modernized urban era there is no longer a major separation of blacks and white residents, there is no strict line through the city or in schools.

Since the mid- nineteenth century the “percentage who would continue to feel comfortable if the neighbourhood became majority black rose from 28 to 35 percent”(Ihlanfeldt & Scafidi, 2004, 326). There is a clear change between the generations as shown by the Gallup Poll Social Audit: “44 per cent of white respondents interviewed in 1958 said they would move if a black household moved next door, but only 1 per cent of the white respondents interviewed in 1997 said they would move” (p. 326).

This is significant to urban life because it shows tolerance and decreased hostility towards other human beings. Rather than feeling objectified or on the defense, urban community can become more comfortable and productive without discrimination. While the census has improved for preferences of neighbors and thought on segregation in the community, there is still the looming presence of black people preferring to live in black neighborhoods and white people preferring to live in predominantly white neighborhoods.

Ihlanfeldt suggests in his research that it’s not the people but rather that “black neighbourhoods are seen as having poor schools and high crime, resulting in lower property values” (p. 327). This fear of having low property values and the decline of urban communities stems from the past; when “there were too few middle income blacks to sustain property values. Obviously, this is much less likely to be true today, given the tremendous growth that has occurred in the black middle class” (p. 334).

However it has been shown that interaction between blacks and whites may increase and educate one another on the similarities and interests that they each might share. This can create a better relationship and encourage interracial neighborhoods. Farley and Frey (1993) present evidence as to why different regions have “greater contact between blacks and whites. ” They say that the reason interracial communities “may be expected in the South and West is because these regions have long been less segregated than the Midwest and Northeast..

” Ihlanfeldt (2004) determined through his study that “whites who have more neighbourhood and workplace contact with blacks reveal a greater willingness for living with blacks. ”(p. 348) Therefore contact and population of blacks are a major factor that can influence whether or not a white person would consider living in predominant black neighborhoods. There is a need for this interaction and interracial mix to help improve the economy and the overall look of the community.

It shows community effort to improve and break down barriers that have been longstanding in the south and in the little population of black people in the West. With the hope of a better life nearly a decade following the end of the Civil War, African Americans migrated north to urbanized cities in hope for a better life. However they would find cities that were ready to swallow them up in the dangers of the Great Depression, the Prohibition, and citizens who were not ready to move forward from racial segregation.

Urban cities in America have long been known for the dangers of crime, alcohol and gambling. As time has gone on, we have seen the poor effects that they can have on a city. Gambling and casinos can be great for an economy that needs it, but if it falls into the wrong hands it can make the economy worse and threaten its citizens. The government, as of late, has begun to fund programs to help failing economies and help those who are struggling in it improve their lives. These programs can help community members find jobs, recover from their substance abuse and become part of the economy recovery.

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