“The leading cause of death among black males between the ages of 15 and 24 is homicide. Every four out of five black victims of violent crimes identified their assailant as another black person,” says Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. This quotation appears in the video “You Will Know,” a song performed by Black Men United back in 1994. Here we are in 2012, facing the same issues from almost a generation earlier. The countless numbers of Black people lost since then reinforce the need for Black people to truly address the way we live on a day-to-day basis and our relationships with one another.
The recent deaths of 41 Black people in Chicago last week among the many incidents in Compton, California and Baltimore, MD, it has become paramount that black-on-black crime must be properly addressed in our communities. The overwhelming protests and rallies from people stemming from the killings of Trayvon Martin and Rekia Boyd have been justified, but let us not forget about the innumerable amount of children and adults being assassinated in our respective cities every day.
Over the past 30 years, there have been numerous examples of us murdering each other at astronomical rates. Many deaths can be attributed to gang activity, drugs, robberies or just random acts of sheer brutality against your brother or sister due to the frustrations that this life can bring. Some will say this can be traced back to socio-economic status, which can be true, but it may go deeper than just socio-economic status.
Societal integration occurred in the late 1950s in the South where racism was king. The Civil Rights movement was in full effect by the early 1960s and this brought out seas of Black people fighting to be recognized in a country that for too long rendered us as barter and stock to be freely exploited at any cost.
It was during this pivotal point in history that Black pride and love were at its zenith. There were captivating and revolutionary leaders guiding our race to reach unprecedented levels of success. Then, slowly one by one, they started to be gunned down by COINTELPRO and the outcome of their voices being ghosts in the wind is where we are today as a people.
As the Civil Rights movement came to a close, the foundation of Black love still resided in us. It shined through in the music and the most apropos song from that era had to be James Brown’s “Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud” and many records that came out in the late 60s through the mid 70s were centered on uplifting our Black queens and calling each other kings. This trend reemerged in the late 1980s and early 1990s hip-hop and rap, but was an anomaly compared to what was about to dominate the airwaves in the years following.
There has been a plethora of events that has led to the decline in black love, but the Vietnam War and the Ronald Regan presidency are two events which stand out like a sore thumb.
The introduction of crack, cocaine, and heroin into our neighborhoods played an integral role in the decimating of our love for each other’s existence. For three decades, we’ve stood by and watch our culture be crucified and have done little to resurrect it. While there have been prominent organizations such as the National Action Network, The Nation of Islam, Rainbow Coalition among others battling against these issues, they still continue to plague the futures of young Black men, women, and children in this country. Hollywood, lack of parenting skills, and governmental policies leading to mass incarcerations for people of color must also shoulder most of the responsibility for the purveying of this troubling trend of promoting and perpetrating violence.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, Blacks were arrested more than any other race for murder in 2008, making up 36% of all arrests. African Americans, constituting approximately 13.6% of the general population, were significantly overrepresented in the total arrests made. African- Americans were also significantly overrepresented in victimization, representing 47% of all murder victims. Murders in African-American populations were overwhelmingly intraracial, with 94% of all Black victims having been murdered by individuals of the same race.
When will the madness stop?
The onus must fall on us to get our houses in order and begin the process of healing these deep wounds we carry internally and externally. The institutional racial parameters designed by the United States do us no favors, but we must start addressing this epidemic before our culture is lost forever. It is contingent that we continue to apply the pressure and demand our politicians and lawmakers to rework the longstanding documents upon which the United States was founded on. There’s a war going on outside that no one is safe from. We have to do this work for the thousands of young Black lives we’ve already lost.
This is an impassioned plea from an observer who loves our culture profoundly.
Chris Williams is an internationally published journalist that has written feature articles covering the topics of politics, race, culture, and entertainment. You can follow him on Twitter at @CWmsWrites and his website www.chriswilliamswrites.com.