Black On Black Crime: Do Black Lives Really Matter?

“Police brutality? Are you fucking kidding me?  How about Black brutality?

-Peggy Hubbard, St. Louis MO

My Dear Readers,

The quotation above is from a woman who is frustrated about the recent rise of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and its focus on police brutality, compared to the lack of focus on violence, drug dealing and consumption, and the overall psychological wellness of citizens within the African-American community.

We think of home as a place of safety and security.  Psychological wellness is shattered when those who enforce the law or those who engage in senseless criminal acts violate your home.  A few weeks ago, a nine-year-old black girl living in Ferguson, MO was shot in the chest by a stray bullet during a drive-by shooting.  At the time she was shot and killed, she was sitting in her bedroom, studying her school lessons.

The death of this child was not a result of police brutality; she was killed during a drive- by shooting.  She was an innocent victim, another statistic of black on black murder, which is exploding across the nation.

The Black Lives Matter movement serves a valuable purpose.  African-Americans, especially adolescents and young males, are vulnerable to police brutality.  The movement ensures the visibility of this issue by not allowing the dominant majority to ignore the reality of police brutality, the videos and documentation of which is not only shared around the nation, but around the world.

It is a reality that a black male merely standing in a public place, can be brutally assaulted by the police.  This is evident by the recent assault on James Blake, a black professional tennis player who was violently assaulted, taken to the ground and handcuffed by a police officer.  The incident turned out to be one of “mistaken identity.”  Although apologies have been made, the psychological damage and trauma can never be forgotten.

In a recent You Tube video, Peggy Hubbard discussed what she saw as a contradiction between BLM’s largely successful efforts against police brutality, while ignoring continuing Black on Black crime, especially murder. In the video, Ms. Hubbard compares the large demonstrations against police brutality in the justified shooting of a “thug” to the silence of the community to the tragic shooting of a nine year old child who supposedly was in the security of her home.

 “What do you think the police are out here for? Fun? So you think they are out here for games?  They’re not going to tuck you in.  They’re not going to give you a cookie and sing you a lullaby.

No, they’re going to pop a cap in your ass.  You shoot at them, and they’re going to shoot at you…if you try to kill them, their job is serve and protect, not serve and die.”

Ms. Hubbard goes on:

“…You want to be upset about black lives.  You want to be upset about police brutality.  There is real police brutality out there, I will give you that, but night after night after night on channel 4, channel 2, channel 5, channel 30, channel 11 and St. Louis Dispatch; murder, murder, murder, murder, murder; black on black murder.  But yet you assholes are out there tearing up your own shit It’s not just your shit, it others people shit.  For a criminal, for a thug…bailing out criminals and thugs.”

Black on Black crime happens at an alarming rate in cities across the country with large black populations.  As of May 2015:

  • Baltimore-murders have doubled with 43 homicides last month alone
  • Chicago- 900+ shooting this year
  • St. Louis- 55 murders this year
  • Dallas-violent crime up 10%
  • Atlanta- homicides up 32 %
  • Milwaukee- homicides up by 180 %
  • New York City-murder up 20%

Barely into the 9th month of the year:

  • Chicago: 357 murders
  • Philadelphia: 304 murders
  • Baltimore: 226 murders
  • St. Louis: 136 murders

The issue here is not just “blacks killing blacks.”  Most homicides are committed by people who know the victim, usually a spouse or acquaintance.   According to Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics,

  • 56% of homicides were killed by acquaintances.
  • 22% were killed by a spouse or other family member and
  • Only 22% of the victims were killed by strangers

The real issue is that Blacks in these circumstances are killing each other at an alarming rate.   Jamira Burley, an activist, recently wrote a column in the Philadelphia Inquirer in which she traced the violence in her hometown to racism and economic disadvantages.  She observes:

“Until we as a society are truly ready to have a serious discussion about the state of black youth and the uneven distribution of resources; we will continue to see an alarming number of young people lose their life to the barrel of a gun, get pushed out or passed through the education system, going to sleep hungry, or being forced to call prison home.

Like everyone else, black youth need love, mentorship, quality education, a safe environment, access to healthy food, and accessibility to resources opportunities.  We have to create a world where there is equal opportunity for everyone. If we fail to do that, the poor black kid will be defined by his or her race or zip code.”

I do not disagree with the content of what is being stated by Ms. Burley.  My concern is that while the African-American community across the country is looking for relief and assistance from the dominant majority, the crime rate and especially the number of murders in these communities continue to mount. Between the years 2007 -2010, 91.3% of the murder victims under the age were black and male.  Almost all those who killed them were also young black men.  The African-American community continues to pay a heavy price.

  • Suicide rates among young Black men are higher than those of young White men. From 1980 to 1995 the suicide rate among African-Americans, ages 10-14, increased 233% compared to 120% of comparable White males.
  • African-Americans are over-represented in high need populations that are particularly at risk for mental health problems.
  • While representing 12% of the U.S. population, African-Americans make up about 40% of the homeless population.
  • Nearly half of all prisoners in State and Federal jurisdictions and almost 40% of the juveniles in legal custody are African-Americans.
  • One study reported that over 25% of the American youth exposed to violence met the diagnostic criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder.

There are not enough mental health resources to match the pace of the psychological and emotional stress within our communities.  Across our country, the percentage of African-American mental health professionals by profession are:

  • Psychiatrists-2%
  • Psychologists-2%
  • Social Workers-4%

We can ill afford to focus all of our attention on the Black Lives Movement and police brutality. Black lives do matter.  Yes, there is police brutality.  There are also good men and women in uniform serving their community as police officers. Is police brutality a distraction?  The rapper A$AP Rocky in an article states the following:

“Why are we exploiting the beef between the urban community and the police force when 60 people got shot on a Friday and Saturday (on a July holiday weekend in 2015) in Chicago, in black-on-black crime?  So one cop shoots a black person…that kind of shit is inevitable.  Not to glorify it, but that’s is nothing new.  Let’s talk about the black-on -black crime.  If you’re not going to talk about the main topic, then don’t talk about it at all.”

Kenny Gamble, a record producer, states:

“There are no more excuses.  We need a code of conduct and a standard of behavior that will outline what is right and what’s wrong in our community.   We as black men have to be able to enforce it.”

Do we drop the Black Lives Movement and focus within the community?  No.  We must find a way in which we can provide advocacy within the community and protect ourselves from being victimized either by police or by criminals in our own communities.

How do we advocate?  We can begin the process by community organizing, ensuring safety in community policing and identifying ways to provide for our youth.  It is time for the anchors of our community (i.e. churches, fraternal service organizations, sororities and fraternities, academicians and those within the medical, judicial, and legal professions) to come together and cease waiting for someone else to resolve the ills which are eating away at our community.

We must want to come together.  I fear that if we do not, we will continue to pay an extremely high psychological price, and many of our communities across the country will remain as they are: racked with poverty, out of control drug trading, sitting on collapsed economic bases, and mounting racial tensions.

Do we care? Does my life matter? Does my life really matter? Really?

Until the next crossroads…the journey continues.

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