If ever an official statistic exposed a glaring and troubling phenomenon that borders on epidemic proportions in the Black community it is the one that speaks to Black-on-Black crime, especially murder as a result of gun violence. And as I read the official figures that revealed how Black Americans today make up only 13 percent of the United States population but are now responsible for 46 percent of all violent crime the enormity of the situation hit me squarely in the gut.
As a Black man the chances of me being done in by one of my own kind is amplified by the daily crime stats that clearly demonstrate Black males utter disregard for the lives of other Blacks. And the recent shooting of Washington Redskins football star, Sean Taylor, 24, in his Florida home by a gang of Black youngsters again brought this troubling and genocidal tendency to the fore. The gang that shot and killed Taylor was on the hustle looking for something in his home to sell and make a quick buck.
Taylor became a Black-on-Black crime statistic in an environment that is fast becoming increasingly violent as Black unemployment, poor educational outcomes, and national hopelessness are at the core of this self-hate and pervasive rage. Drug use and community drug trafficking as a way out of unemployment carries with it the collateral of guns, violence and murder. Hopelessness and unpreparedness for today’s competitive job market are the engines of continued Black marginalization that stokes rage and anger with violence as the only outlet for such all-consuming feelings.
The upshot is that anti-social behavior like stealing is no big deal in today’s Black community where street hustling and “getting over on others” are two survivalist tools. As the Sean Taylor case proved this violence is robbing the Black community of some of its most talented youths with 90 percent of Black homicide victims being killed by other Blacks. The killing is being done by young Black males and those being killed are young Black males.
The sad thing is that there no easy answers to this problem. Fratricide – and that is what it is – has deep sociological roots and this Black-on-Black crime is the culmination of a pathology that started in slavery and segregation. Today, the Black community has indeed reaped the whirlwind by having other problems placed in its midst that have helped to morph the negative legacies of slavery and segregation.
While Blacks are no longer in chains, shackles or lynched, beaten and tarred and feathered, historical neglect and systemic racism has been the vehicles that entrenched poverty, family dysfunctionality and a calculated devaluation of Black life within today’s Black ghettoized communities.
And without wanting to sound apologetic or to make excuses for Black-on-Black crime I submit that today’s Blacks who glorify the gun, kill each other for insignificant trinkets or the perceived “dissing” of a female are not the ones who created these negative social pathologies. They are the end-result of a process that started with Black self-hate driven by a warped and racist social thinking that equated a Black male with an animal. Today, those Black males are acting out this behavior in a culture that glorifies and adores violence that starts with children as little as 2 years old “wanting to kick some butt.”
So within today’s Black community riddled with poverty, joblessness, hopelessness and poor educational outcomes Black youths have embraced a forced immoral circumstance that says it’s all right to steal, con, swindle, bamboozle and hustle one’s way to success. Oftentimes that success is measured by how much money that one can flash around. Predatory crime has thus become a way of life that is accepted by everyone “in the hood.”
As this community degenerates further into poverty there is an entrenched cycle of violence, poverty and despair occasioned by the high rate of teenage pregnancies. This is a vicious cycle where uneducated, poor Black kids are having kids that they are ill-prepared and unable to raise as adults. With these young Black fathers away in jails for short and long stints and recidivism rates in the Black community at an all-time high (as much as 49% in places like Brooklyn, New York City) and Black male unemployment pegged at the same percentage (2006 data) violent crime in the Black community is apparently here to stay.
To turn this situation around will require radical and invasive interventions that promote and advocate a culture of life that is built on a foundation of community economics that give young Black males a sense of pride by being gainfully and lawfully employed. Next, there must be a way to develop and improve the Black community by allocating financial and other resources in a way that guarantees long-term successes.
And there must be a move to change the mindset of successful Blacks who turn their backs on the community where they grew up and not lending a hand to help their at-risk brethren. These Blacks who flee from the Black community once their economic status improves are responsible for the stagnation and decay of the community by becoming part of this “Black brain drain” that impoverishes and marginalizes the Black community. I’m not asking those successful Blacks to live in crime infested neighborhoods but I’m asking that they use their influence and new social standing to help develop and create programs that improve Black life.
These programs must ALL have an educational component because it is education – traditional, technical and vocational – that will lift the Black race out of its present state. It makes no sense to simply throw money at a problem and hope that it goes away. Finally, I am a big fan of mentorship programs and here again successful Blacks can do the “self-help” bit by taking part in these programs. This can help lower the levels of hate, anger and self-hate that are at the emotional and psychological roots of Black-on-Black crime.
The Black church is also vital to changing this situation. Over the years the Black Church has abnegated its responsibility as the custodian of Black spirituality. It is from this institution that Blacks will learn to respect each other and have respect for human life since the Black family is now under siege. It is the Black Church that has the power to place a new value on Black life and arrest the devaluation of Black life that is one of the core reasons for Black-on-Black crime and violence. In short, while there are external and historical forces that negatively mitigate against Black success, a good place to start turning all that around is from within the Black individual.
Charity begins at home and Black males much start by learning to love and respect themselves before they can love and respect others.