To the casual observer, a drive through Duffau might seem a far cry from the streets of Baltimore. There is little evidence of the once bustling metropolis, the crumbling stone ruins having long since been reclaimed by Mother Nature. However, when Jacob and Sophia Koonsman (my great–great–great-grandparents) settled here just a couple of miles west of Duffau, the prosperous little town boasted steam powered cotton gins and flour mills, four churches and a school, three doctors, two deputies, competing mercantiles and even a couple of hotels.
I don’t know if Jacob and Sophia ever made it to Baltimore. They are buried just inside the gates of a tidy little cemetery overlooking Duffau Creek. In their lifetime they witnessed the decline of Duffau, spawned largely by the railroads decision to bypass the community. That same decision was ultimately a boon to nearby Hico, but within a generation most of Duffau’s residents had moved on, victims of a socio-economic model that had run its course.
This country is littered with communities like Duffau. It happens to small communities and big cities, inner city neighborhoods and even once prosperous countries. The community ceases to sustain small business and jobs, wealth ceases to be generated and the job creators move on to greener pastures. Eventually the socio-economic model fails and the community ceases to be viable. It’s that simple.
Welcome to Duffau … and Baltimore.
Despite the striking similarities, there are distinctive differences in the two cities. Baltimore boasts a population of a little over 600,000 while the population of Duffau currently resides somewhere a little north of … well … 6. I can scarcely remember the last time the citizens of Duffau had a good riot, burned a drug store, looted a mercantile or marched up and down a caliche road carrying signs touting ‘Old White Lives Matter.’
Well, old White lives do matter – just like Black lives matter. And neither have a damned thing to do with the problems in Baltimore or Duffau. Nor does police brutality, systemic racism or evil Republicans.
In Baltimore, the socio-economic model has failed after almost five decades of liberal leadership. African Americans are well represented in the Mayor’s office, the city council, law enforcement and the court system. Black residents are exponentially more likely to be murdered by a fellow Black citizen than a White police officer and the unemployment rate among African American men is 37%, half again higher than the unemployment rate during the height of the Great Depression.
It ain’t that kind of racism – but it’s racism. It is racism by marginalization.
Baltimore is the culmination of grandiose social engineering by both parties. Whereas a century ago, a community like Duffau was regarded as a minor casualty on the road to progress, cities like Baltimore have become largely sustained through social programs and government entitlement, no longer necessitating that the socio-economic model change or adapt.
The longterm infusion of government dollars eventually becomes part of a new socio-economic model. In the absence of wealth creation, the economic model becomes one of predation. This environment becomes hostile to small business and job creation and the socio-economic model becomes one that operates not just outside the rule of law, but in direct conflict with it.
Of course the cops become the bad guys.
I’m assuming that Al Sharpton will point this out to the good people of Baltimore – and Ferguson. The citizens of these cities don’t need another handout, they need an opportunity. The government hasn’t helped these once great cities, it has contributed to their decline.
Unfortunately it’s the same old story, with the same cast of characters. And I’m afraid the solution must be generational - just like the problem. But ultimately someone is going to have to make a move – and it really comes down to the same old economic question. Which is going to come first, the chicken or the egg?
I guess it doesn’t really matter. As long as that little banty rooster, Al Sharpton, is pecking around, that chicken ain’t coming home.
Jon Koonsman is a rancher and 6th generation Erath County resident. He is married with two sons and one daughter and resides on his family's ranch near Duffau. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.