Poverty and violence in Pittsburgh

When you get a sunset in Pittsburgh, you really get a sunset (figure 1).

Fig. 1. Photograph by author, April 16, 2022. I am not disclosing the precise location to protect privacy.


Pittsburgh

Hill District violence

Mr. [Tiwan] Hill’s death was just one of 11 shootings — two of them fatal — that echoed through the historic African American neighborhood since March 22. For some neighbors, the location and scale of recent shootings are surprising, though the grisly realities of gun violence have become just another part of life.[1]

In Pittsburgh, you are never far from poverty and the problems associated with poverty. I’ve been slow to pick up this story of recent violence in the Hill District,[2] because I tend not to focus on street crime; I see it as a symptom of the problem rather than the problem itself. And this, indeed, is what residents will tell you.[3]

Still, this has been an exceptional spate of violence recently, and the explanations I tend to resort to—the poverty, the despair, political neglect, that a lot of folks around here confuse their guns for their penises (and that includes the women)—and the explanations residents add—the drugs, the lack of positive influence, a lack of things to do[4]—fail to explain the spike now.

Jesse Bunch and Andrew Goldstein, “In the Hill District, residents grapple with recent spike in gun violence,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 16, 2022, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/crime-courts/2022/04/16/pittsburgh-hill-district-gun-violence-shootings/stories/202204140127

Julia Felton, “Ed Gainey marks 100 days as Pittsburgh’s mayor, learns to ‘fall in love with adversity,’” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 16, 2022, https://triblive.com/local/ed-gainey-marks-100-days-as-pittsburghs-mayor-learns-to-fall-in-love-with-adversity/

North Side violence

If in the Hill District, I see a big hole in the ground where I gather the Civic Arena used to be, where a new office tower will be built, and where jobs will allegedly be offered to Hill District residents[5]—a promise I am deeply skeptical of—in the North Side, I see increasing gentrification. In some cases, old homes are being torn down, but in many cases, they are being extensively renovated; in all cases, housing is becoming much more ‘trendy’ and expensive. And as always, I ask, what happens to the people who were here?

I can’t help but suspect that as people come under pressure, as they lose their homes to gentrification, you can expect an increase in violence. I doubt this entirely explains this recent spate. But it’s part of the context, something a critical theorist will insist is essential in understanding a social phenomenon.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “At least 11 shot, 2 dead in North Side shooting, police say,” April 17, 2022, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/crime-courts/2022/04/17/pittsburgh-shooting-north-side-east-allegheny-update-public-safety/stories/202204170168


  1. [1]Jesse Bunch and Andrew Goldstein, “In the Hill District, residents grapple with recent spike in gun violence,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 16, 2022, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/crime-courts/2022/04/16/pittsburgh-hill-district-gun-violence-shootings/stories/202204140127
  2. [2]Megan Guza, “3 shot in Pittsburgh’s Hill District,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 12, 2022, https://triblive.com/local/3-shot-in-pittsburghs-hill-district/; Sarafina James, “Man assaulted, hospitalized following crash in Pittsburgh’s Hill District,” WPXI, April 8, 2022, https://www.wpxi.com/news/local/man-assaulted-hospitalized-following-crash-pittsburghs-hill-district/CCH6JMSD6NAQXKODHLNFIETOZ4/; Nick Matoney, “Man shot multiple times in Pittsburgh’s Hill District,” WTAE, March 25, 2022, https://www.wtae.com/article/man-shot-multiple-times-in-pittsburghs-hill-district/39534380; WPXI, “19-year-old killed, 1 other injured in Hill District shooting,” April 11, 2022, https://www.wpxi.com/news/local/2-people-injured-hill-district-shooting/XL2XHK7AVFEVDD42QUYIGUDSOQ/
  3. [3]Jesse Bunch and Andrew Goldstein, “In the Hill District, residents grapple with recent spike in gun violence,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 16, 2022, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/crime-courts/2022/04/16/pittsburgh-hill-district-gun-violence-shootings/stories/202204140127
  4. [4]Jesse Bunch and Andrew Goldstein, “In the Hill District, residents grapple with recent spike in gun violence,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 16, 2022, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/crime-courts/2022/04/16/pittsburgh-hill-district-gun-violence-shootings/stories/202204140127
  5. [5]Tom Davidson, “Plans for redevelopment of Civic Arena site set for approval,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, May 3, 2021, https://triblive.com/local/plans-for-redevelopment-of-civic-arena-site-set-for-approval/

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