Before Philly Shootout, Nicetown Wasn't All That Nice

Several quality of life indicators show one of the most distressed neighborhoods in Philadelphia

Publisher’s Riff

presented by Reality Check on WURD, airs Monday - Thursday, 4-7pm ET, streamed live at, in Philly on 96.1 FM / 900 AM | #RealityCheck @ellisonreport

(photo credit: Wanda Thomas |

Perhaps one of the greatest modern urban oxymorons is the neighborhood “Nicetown” which is tucked tightly into North Philadelphia. It is also known, almost legend-like, as one of Philly’s most socioeconomically distressed and notorious neighborhoods. When Philadelphia police engaged in a fierce gun battle and nearly 8-hour standoff on Wednesday afternoon, most Philadelphians were stunned by the scope of it … but not all that surprised that it happened in Nicetown.

This particular level of gun violence is not an isolated one-off for the Nicetown section. But, it shouldn’t be ignored that this is reflective of deeper systemic and structural issues that have long plagued that section of Philadelphia - even as there are pockets of Nicetown undergoing a period of noticeable gentrification and rehabilitation. It’s crucial to take those issues or challenges into account when digesting what just went down in Nicetown.

A quick look at several key indicators suggest this was never the first fit of gun violence in this very residential section of Philly and, unfortunately, it won’t be the last as the city struggles through what seems like another record year of gun clashes and homicides (204 homicides in Philadelphia to date as of this writing, according to Philadelphia police data, 4 percent higher than this same time in 2018).

Quality of Life

Incidentally, the Philadelphia Health Department just released its first ever The Health of Philadelphia Neighborhoods report at the beginning of August. General quality of life indicators for Nicetown are among the most troubling, especially when compared to Philly’s 45 other neighborhoods.


Nicetown-Tioga, according to that report, actually outranks all other city neighborhoods when assessing the citywide average of violent crime per 100,000 people …

The Philadelphia Inquirer’s analysis of homicides throughout Philadelphia since 2003 shows Nicetown-Tioga consistently ranking among the city’s Top 10 Deadliest Neighborhoods …

It wasn’t on that list between 2003 - 2007, but from 2008 through 2017, there was a noticeable uptick to place it on that list. There have been 306 total homicides since 1988 in that section, one of the highest 30-year homicide totals in the city …

Life Expectancy

The very top of that report offers glaring life expectancy outcomes in a comparison between the Nicetown-Tioga section of Philly and the much more prosperous Center City section …

Health Outcomes & Factors

Overall, Nicetown-Tioga ranks at the bottom of the 4th Quartile of neighborhood health rankings …

.. and it’s still in the bottom quartile for Health Factors, as well …

Cancer mortality rates are also among the highest in this section of the city …

Image result for cancer mortality in philadelphia

Food Insecurity

Food insecurity rates throughout Philadelphia are already high and above the national average. Those rates in the Nicetown-Tioga section of the city are already above the 30 percent threshold.

It’s not to say that all of Nicetown-Tioga is in that much distress. We don’t want to discount or dismiss the residents who live there. Again, there are relatively nice pockets within Nicetown and a recent trend towards rehabilitation But, overall, we must be realistic and holistic: Nicetown is in enough of a troubling state to warrant greater examination and immediate action from policymakers, community advocates and other stakeholders.

The Blackest States Are The "Worst States to Have a Baby"

Recently released list of "Best & Worst States To Have a Baby" won't highlight the racial, socio-economic dimensions

Publisher’s Riff

presented by Reality Check on WURD, airs Monday - Thursday, 4-7pm ET, streamed live at, in Philly on 96.1 FM / 900 AM | #RealityCheck @ellisonreport

Image result for maternity ward

Financial services research firm WalletHub recently released its 2019 report on “Best & Worst States To Have a Baby.” In keeping with its very data-intensive, no-nonsense, no-commentary approach, WalletHub presents this data as clinically and innocuously as possible. In doing so, the report won’t tackle much more weighty or controversial topics such as the racial or socio-economic indicators that are a common and very glaring characteristic of these states. Here’s the main list at first glance, including the primary 50 plus 1 (the District of Columbia) states:

What we do notice off the top is that this is a very significant, yet overlooked report. The governors and policymakers of states that find themselves at the bottom of the list should review it with a mix of embarrassment and serious worry. How can a state achieve a higher standard of living or even begin thinking about future social, educational or economic progress or growth if its greatest resource - people - face increasingly dire prospects from birth?

The Role of Race At The Bottom 11

The “Worst States” or bottom 11 states - #40 - #51 - are of particular interest.

The majority of these states hold the highest concentrations of statewide Black residents in the United States, according to Census estimates. Most of them are concentrated in the South. Indeed, 8 out of 10 of these states, 80 percent, contain Black populations that represent 15 percent or more of the state’s population share. Here is a quick list of those Black population totals in the bottom 11 states:

  • North Carolina - 24%

  • New Mexico - 3%

  • West Virginia - 5%

  • Florida - 18%

  • Nevada - 12%

  • Arkansas - 17%

  • Georgia - 34%

  • Oklahoma - 9%

  • Louisiana - 34%

  • South Carolina - 28%

  • Alabama - 28%

  • Mississippi - 39%

Nearly 6 out of 10, or 60 percent, of these states have Black population shares that are about a quarter or more of the entire population (including North Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi). The majority of the bottom 6 states, or 83 percent of the 6 Worst States in the nation to have a baby, are states with massive Black population totals. These are the largest non-White populations in these major states. Hence, there is a rather dangerous correlation between infant health and mortality and the Black demographic composition of a state.

Poverty Rates & White Populations

These states also contain the highest or above-average poverty rates in the United States (reference Kaiser Family Foundation mapping) …

States that are at the top of the WalletHub list, or the states that are the Best Places to Have a Baby, share a common thread of low, below-average poverty rates - these are also places where the White population totals are very high. Here are also White population totals for the Top 11 states:

  • Vermont - 94%

  • Massachusetts - 81%

  • North Dakota - 87%

  • Rhode Island - 84%

  • Minnesota - 84%

  • New Hampshire - 93%

  • Washington - 79%

  • Colorado - 87%

  • Connecticut - 80%

  • Utah - 91%

  • Oregon - 87%

Nearly 91 percent of the states in the Top 11 best places to have a baby, or 10 out of 11, are places with White population totals no less than 80 percent.

Black Unemployment Rates

The majority of states at the Bottom 11 are also places where Black unemployment rates are either higher and in some cases more than double the national unemployment rate currently at 3.7 percent.

Here are known Black unemployment rates by state, according to the Economic Policy Institute’s recent report on the topic …

  • North Carolina - 6.9%

  • New Mexico - n/a

  • West Virginia - n/a

  • Florida - 5.1%

  • Nevada - n/a

  • Arkansas - 7.6%

  • Georgia - 5.7%

  • Oklahoma - n/a

  • Louisiana - 8%

  • South Carolina - 5.2%

  • Alabama - 7.1%

  • Mississippi - 7.7%

Infant Mortality & Fewer OB-GYNs

Additionally, the majority of states with high infant mortality rates and fewer OB-GYNs or midwife professionals available for delivery are also places with the highest Black population totals noted earlier …

There are rather troubling correlations suggesting that a higher Black population share in a state determines whether or not adequate medical care is provided to newborns. This will become more urgent as non-White population becomes the majority of those newborn and under the age of 18. That trend is already here, see more at Brookings

United States ethnic profiles, 2018 and 2060

A Winnable Gun Debate

A ban on “battlefield weapons” could keep casualties from mass shootings down

a Philadelphia Citizen feature

Image result for gun control debate

Charles Ellison | @thephilacitizen | Full piece here

Gun control advocates are fighting a losing battle. Just days after El Paso and Dayton, which could be a crucial turning point in shifting the debate, many policymakers are going right back to relying on old rhetoric.  Unable to let go of pipe-dreaming “bipartisan” rhetoric, as an example, the U.S. Conference of Mayors puts out a letter co-signed by 214 mayors pushing for background checks. Yet, that just muddles the language. Calling it “bipartisan gun safety legislation” either gets it nowhere, implies you’re keeping guns safe (versus keeping, well, people safe) or merely dilutes the cause. 

Instead, keep it simple and firm. Focus efforts where they can have some impact: The ban of “battlefield grade weapons and firearms.” Period. Nothing else. No sense in strengthening a background check if a motivated individual posing as a law-abiding citizen one day and then ending up as mass shooting white nationalist soldier the next can still get their hands on a battlefield rifle. 

Hence, each time gun rights advocates spin that “Dems & libs” are about steal everyone’s guns, gun control advocates should message incessantly that they only want “battlefield weapons” off the civilian shelf. No more, no less. Let’s get that done, and we’ll cross the soft-policy of background checks later. If gun owners and gun enthusiasts want to keep their handguns and old-school hunting rifles, have at it. But, call the gun advocates’ bluff on this topic: If you need need an AR-15 or an AK-47 to kill a deer, rabbit or duck, you really can’t hunt. So, what’s the real purpose? 

But, here’s the funny thing: It’s not like we haven’t done this before

Read the full article here

The Philadephia Citizen

Dropping The Term "Domestic Terrorism" - Because It's Worldwide

Maybe It's Time To Stop Using ‘Domestic’ — White Supremacists Are A Global Threat

Contributor’s Riff

presented by Reality Check on WURD, airs Monday - Thursday, 4-7pm ET, streamed live at, in Philly on 96.1 FM / 900 AM | #RealityCheck @ellisonreport

Image result for global white supremacy

by Nida Khan | @NidaKhanNY

originally at

For years, people like myself have argued that we need to call out acts of terrorism and violence perpetrated by White men in the same fashion that we call out those committed by terrorists who claim to be Muslim or belong to a terrorist network overseas. Many of us have pushed for use of the term ‘domestic terrorism’ when discussing these tragedies, and now following the horrific attack in El Paso, Texas, the country’s collective conversation has finally moved in this direction.

Federal authorities have said they’re treating the El Paso massacre which directly targeted the Latinx community as an act of domestic terrorism, and for the first time that I can recall, media outlets are finally, somewhat, beginning to use the same terminology.

But perhaps we are all wrong. The term ‘domestic’ implies that this is just a national crisis; the reality is, white supremacists are a global threat.

In November of 2017, around 60,000 people — the majority of whom were white supremacists and fascists — marked Poland’s independence day by marching in Warsaw holding signs like “White Europe, Europe must be white” and “Pray for an Islamic Holocaust”. In May of 2018, about 10,000 Croatians, including neo-Nazis, were in the Austrian town of Bleiburg to mourn the defeat of a former Nazi-affiliated army. In March of this year, veterans of Latvia’s World War II-era SS wing and their supporters (about 1,000 people) marched through that country’s capital. A month earlier, members of a neo-Nazi group held a torch-wielding demonstration through parts of Nuremberg, Germany — yes, Germany. The march apparently began at a hostel for refugees.

It’s no coincidence that as open, public displays of hate and racist rallies are taking place across Europe and elsewhere, there is a simultaneous rise in hate crimes. According to a report by France’s National Human Rights Advisory Committee, anti-Semitic attacks in that country increased more than 70 percent in 2018 compared to 2017 …

Human Rights Watch reported that in Germany, anti-Semitic crimes rose 20 percent in 2018, while in the UK, there were 1,652 anti-Semitic incidents in the same year.

In Canada, reported hate crimes rose 47 percent in 2017 according to a study by Statistics Canada. As the Washington Post highlighted

Law enforcement agencies reported that 2,073 hate crimes occurred in 2017, up from 1,409 in 2016, an increase fueled by incidents primarily taking place in Ontario and Quebec targeting Canada’s Jewish, Muslim and Black populations.

Let’s remember that Quebec was where a white male stormed a mosque in 2017, shooting and killing 6 worshipers and injuring several others.

After 51 people were slaughtered in the New Zealand mosque attacks a few months back, the number of anti-Muslim hate crimes in Britain skyrocketed 593% one week later according to reporting at the Guardian. They included things like a sledgehammer attack on five mosques and the stabbing of a teenager in what police determined to be a far-right terror attack. As the BBC reported in June, racism and race-related hate crimes increased so much since the 2016 Brexit referendum, that special community cohesion officers have been appointed in many areas. As if that weren’t distressing enough, a total of 10,571 racially-motivated hate crimes against children — children — were recorded by police in 2017–18 in Britain according to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. That averages out to about 29 a day, and is growing at a rate of about 1,000 new crimes a year. As CNN highlighted

Children as young as 10 are whitening their faces to avoid being subjected to racist abuse in Britain …

They go on to say that the crisis has swelled so severely that babies yet to reach their first birthday are counted among the victims of these hate crimes. Just let that sink in.

Here in the United States, hate crimes increased 17 percent in 2017 from the previous year according to the FBI’s own stats. Of the more than 7,100 hate crimes reported, nearly three out of five were motivated by race and ethnicity.

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A reminder: reporting hate crimes to the FBI is still voluntary — not every police department or jurisdiction is required to submit this info, so the overall numbers are surely even higher.

A recent report from The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism gives us an even closer picture: hate crimes rose 9 percent in 30 major American cities in 2018, despite the fact that overall crime rates have continued to fall.

It is no surprise that this global rise in hate crimes is happening at a time when western societies are becoming increasingly diverse, and when xenophobic right-wing groups, leaders and parties have amassed power and seats in government. Earlier this year, the BBC did a powerful breakdown of the percentage of votes won by nationalist parties in the most recent European elections …

Whether it’s Matteo Salvini in Italy, or ViKtor Orban in Hungary or any of these other so-called leaders across Europe and elsewhere, the nativist, anti-immigrant rhetoric, campaigns and policies have been the recurring thread that binds them all together in an ugly pot of fear, insecurity and hatred. One could argue that our current president is the one stirring this vile mixture.

This weekend, 22 innocents lost their lives in El Paso at the hands of a reported white supremacist who directly repeated talking points of Trump and the right in his online screed. As the nation continues to grapple with this terrorist attack, with the ugly environment that has been created under a Trump Presidency (Charlottesville, Pittsburgh, etc.) and years of right-wing propaganda, as well as the rise of right-wing nationalism and white supremacy, we cannot lose sight of the fact that this is a global epidemic. And it’s not just disaffected youth getting radicalized online; there is an organized movement pushing ‘white replacement theories’ and running for office on campaigns of fear-mongering and winning.

It’s important to remember that the El Paso attack, a mob of people chanting “send her back” about a Muslim member of Congress, and the rise in hate crimes are all occurring at a time when things are relatively decent overall. The unemployment rate is the lowest in 50 years, the economy is ‘the best ever’ (according to the president himself), and there thankfully hasn’t been a terrorist attack committed by a Muslim. Now if people are able to be riled up in this manner when things are going reasonably well, it begs the question: what’s going to happen if there is another recession, skyrocketing unemployment or worse?

As we all know, when economies tank or there is instability, racism, bigotry and hate is heightened even more.

Ultimately, the United States and all Western countries are grappling with the idea of what kind of societies they want to be; will they be diverse, inclusive and progressive nations, or racist, nativist and regressive ones? The answer will have consequences for us all — not just those being otherized.

Perhaps George W. Bush was right after all when he said “either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.” Here’s hoping we prevail.

"Gun Control" Advocates Must Overhaul Their Talking Points

And, oh, remind Americans about that expired federal assault weapons ban

Publisher’s Riff

presented by Reality Check on WURD, airs Monday - Thursday, 4-7pm ET, streamed live at, in Philly on 96.1 FM / 900 AM | #RealityCheck @ellisonreport

Image result for mass shooting el paso

As usual, the conversation following a string of major mass shootings heads into the wash, rinse and repeat cycle. Gun control advocates and outraged Americans can’t understand why, after so many domestic terrorism attacks, policymakers can’t get their act together and unify around an effective approach. It’s very likely that it has a lot to do with messaging and perceptions. In short: gun control advocates must dramatically reset expectations and the lexicon surrounding the gun control debate if they can hope to make any headway. Several thoughts to insert in that conversation:

The National Security Threat

It is a little encouraging that federal authorities, right off the bat, are treating the El Paso shooting that killed 20 innocent civilians as a case of “domestic terrorism.” In the past, federal law enforcement tended to avoid that designation for multiple reasons, chief among them a reluctance to accept that organized white nationalism is a major national security threat. However, there is still a long way to go - and a new administration - before that’s the standard. What’s needed is an acknowledgment, or an admission, that any mass shooting whereby it’s clear the motivation is political or ideological should be automatically labeled as domestic terrorism. That acknowledgment could be pushed by public pressure. There’s no difference between the armed white nationalism in the U.S. and groups such as ISIS or Al-Qaeda other than clear differences in racial composition.

In terms of the overall debate and discussion, gun control advocates, progressives and other concerned policymakers should underscore that this is a War Against Domestic Terrorism and Right-Wing Extremism. That level of extremism, as the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Seth G. Jones notes, is on the rise …

Terrorist attacks by right-wing extremists in the United States have increased. Between 2007 and 2011, the number of such attacks was five or less per year. They then rose to 14 in 2012; continued at a similar level between 2012 and 2016, with a mean of 11 attacks and a median of 13 attacks; and then jumped to 31 in 2017. FBI arrests of right-wing extremists also increased in 2018.

This is what that rise looks like …

Emphasizing the rise of this extremism as a total “national security threat” (versus a “hate crime” or as a string of disconnected isolated incidents) helps to crystallize it further for the public and could potentially force more voters to demand immediate action from policymakers on both left and right. If conservative voters want to truly claim their “patriot” status, they should have no problem fighting against the “national security threat” unfolding before our eyes, right?

Focus on Ban of “Battlefield-Grade Weapons”

Gun control advocates are fighting a losing battle if they proceed with a broad, all-guns conversation demanding full public disarmament. It’s America: expecting Americans to relinquish a fetish for guns and gun culture is unrealistic. See recent polling data on this question, for example, according to Pew

There are considerably more guns than people in the United States. And data above show quite a few people - at least those that we know of - being honest about their gun ownership, legal or otherwise. Citing more from Pew …

Protection tops the list of reasons why gun owners have a gun. Two-thirds of gun owners (67%) say this as a major reason why they own a firearm. Considerably smaller shares say hunting (38%), sport shooting (30%), gun collecting (13%) or their job (8%) are major reasons. While men and women are about equally likely to cite protection (65% and 71%, respectively) as a major reason they own a gun, women are more likely than men to cite protection as the only reason (27% of women vs. 8% of men). Higher shares of male gun owners than female gun owners point to hunting (43% vs. 31%) and sport shooting (34% vs. 23%) as major reasons for gun ownership.

Regardless of whether they live in an urban, suburban or rural area, Americans are much more likely to cite protection than other considerations as a major reason for owning a gun. Rural gun owners, however, are far more likely than their urban and suburban counterparts to say hunting is a major reason why they own a firearm (48% of rural gun owners say this, compared with 34% of suburbanites and 27% of urbanites).

Gun rights advocates have successfully misconstrued the gun control message as a mission to take all guns - and, as a result, take away personal “protection.” Gun control is successfully, and incorrectly, framed as a “slippery slope” towards the full elimination of gun rights. It’s one why we see numbers like these where there is still a considerable number of Americans who don’t want strict gun laws: 41 percent in a recent NPR/PBS/Marist poll say a ban on assault guns is a bad idea, 34-40 percent in a Quinnipiac poll oppose stricter gun laws overall …

Additionally, according to Gallup historical data

Line graph. Do you have a gun in your home? 1959-2018 trend. High 51% "yes" in 1993; currently 43%.Line graph. Americans' views in changes on strictness of gun laws. 61% in late 2018 say they should be more strict.

Gun control advocates need to start sharpening the message with laser focus: Eliminate all “battlefield-grade weapons.” Get veterans who’ve used those weapons to back that up. Leave other guns such as small arms, handguns and basic hunting rifles out of the discussion. Basic message:

“You can keep your sidearms. We just want those battlefield-grade/military-grade weapons off the shelves, safely kept in military hands.”

That’s it, keep countering with that, pressing that as the main, uncompromising maxim of all gun control efforts: remove “battlefield grade weapons” from the civilian marketplace. Add clever clap-backs like “you must not know how to hunt if you need an AR-15 to kill a deer, rabbit or duck.”

Revive The Federal Assault Weapons Ban

For 10 years in U.S. history, there was a national ban on “battlefield grade” weapons or what are also known as “assault weapons.” The ban was created as a subsection in what is now the infamous 1994 Crime Bill. But, it was allowed to expire in 2004 and has been on shelf since.

Gun control advocates should be constantly raising and reviving the still expired assault weapons ban, using it 1) as a primary litmus test for 2020 Democratic candidates (“will you revive the federal assault weapons ban you first 100 days?”) and 2) forcing media to constantly pepper the current president with that same question about the assault weapons ban.

Another messaging mantra is this particular data point relevant to the assault weapons ban, based on research from University of Massachusetts-Boston researcher (per Politifact)

Klarevas examined incidents before, during and after the assault weapons ban when six or more people were shot and killed.

• 1984 to 1994: 19 incidents

• 1994 to 2004 (ban is in effect): 12 incidents

2004 to 2014: 34 incidents

That shows a 183 percent increase of incidents in the decade after the ban, compared to the years during the ban.

Apparently, while the ban didn’t totally stop mass shootings, it certainly showed some effectiveness based on data above. Which means it’s a very worthwhile and easy step in the right direction. Why that hasn’t been a daily and prominent, lead mantra of the gun control movement is confounding. Even more confounding is how 2020 Democratic candidates, including the 1994 Crime Bill author Joe Biden, have - up until the recent El Paso and Dayton shootings - failed to bring up the ban. Gun control advocates should be reviving a grassroots movement built around the ban of battlefield/war zone-grade weapons.

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