Last month, nineteen-year-old Michael Byoune was shot and killed by two Inglewood police officers. According to Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks, they believed that gunshots were coming from the car in which Byoune was a passenger, and “feared for their lives.” But no guns were found in the car, no one has been arrested. There is no evidence linking Byoune, another passenger, or the driver to the gunshots. Chief Seabrooks, refusing to call it a mistake, said the killing was, “tragic for everyone involved.”
On the basis of available information, the shooting was a horrific mistake and unless officially acknowledged as such, will embolden community distrust.
Community Call to Action and Accountability (CCAA), was formed following the killing of thirteen-year-old Devin Brown by an LAPD officer in 2005. CCAA had planned to support an Inglewood-based community meeting on the killing. That did not happen. No resident—driven or significant spontaneous response to the killing was forthcoming. This portends diminished concern and civic engagement, and has ominous implications for future issues of critical importance.
Subsequently, CCAA joined the Cease Fire Committee, an anti-violence group, as co-sponsor of a “Stop the Killing Across the Board” Town Hall meeting (May 28th) at Bethel AME Church in South Central Los Angeles. Invitees—in addition to residents—included families of murdered victims, Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), L.A. Sheriff’s Office, Long Beach PD and Inglewood PD. (Inglewood PD was a no show and some interpreted it as another indication of questionable creditability.)
Unwarranted police violence is clearly a major problem, but Black-on-Black killing is even more egregious. Sadly, in certain areas, such violence has become practically the norm. This column periodically comments on underlying causes of such violence, but suffice it to note that Blacks still suffer slavery’s insidious legacy including large doses of self-hate and internalization of its oppressor’s values without access to comparable benefits. This has indirect, but significant bearing on Black-on-Black violence.
America’s propensity for violence, manifested in its values and crass competiveness, is an obvious causal factor. Less mentioned, are institutional policies and practices that foster violence in many arenas. For example, public schools not only fail to educate poorer inner-city students, but are fodder for gangs—mainly through institutional indifference and neglect. (Last week’s column described, in some detail, the Los Angeles School District’s (LAPD) reprehensible treatment of Black students that keeps them “securely” at the lowest achievement levels.)
Obviously, the stop the killing crusade must target those police who under cover of a badge, abuse and kill needlessly, with impunity. In recent memory, no LAPD officer has been convicted of killing a Black person and California’s Police Officers Bill of Rights makes it nearly impossible to successfully prosecute rogue cops under the “officer feared for his life” defense.
Instances of Blacks being killed without sufficient cause or provocation are legion. The list of such killings includes the notorious cases of Leonard Deadwyler, Eula Love, Margaret Mitchell, Devin Brown, Susie Pena and countless other, unpublicized cases.
Similarly, the number of excessive force cases is huge. These include Ralph Miller, Rodney King and Donovan Jackson—representing only the tip of the iceberg. (Note: a recent report indicates that of approximately 350 racial profiling complaints against LAPD officers, none were found to have merit. This incredulous finding simply confirms the perceived nature and extent of sanctioned police malpractice.)
Violence is deeply embedded in America’s history, culture and current practices. Its legacy is manifested throughout society and, graphically, by the internalization of majority values by Blacks. Nothing short of sustained challenges will put a dent in this reality.
The caustic cry of many Blacks that Latino-on-Black killing is increasing is another case of hyperbole promulgate by self-serving opportunists. Latino-on-Black violence is real but relatively rare. It is of far less magnitude than Black-on-Black violence. Significantly, Blacks generally, and those who rail against undocumented Latinos, in particular, carefully avoid protesting Black-on-Black violence with the same intensity. Except for predictable outrage following high-profile incidents like Rodney King and Jena 6, the silence from these same people is deafening.
Inglewood’s muted response to Michael Byoune’s killing is indicative of a broader malaise, a tacit acceptance and reinforcement of violence throughout the Black population. Failure to hold all those in positions of authority accountable for dealing with the issue appears endemic and has ominous implications for the future.
Direct engagement in political, governmental, and community affairs is a key indicator of the health and viability of any community. Blacks, the poorest to most affluent, unwittingly reinforce violence by failing to participate in challenging violence collectively. This must change.
Larry Aubry n can be contacted at e-mail