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Violence is a perennial topic. However, notwithstanding distorted media accounts and research reports ad nauseum, violence has increased horribly among Blacks in Los Angeles and throughout the nation. Gangs understandably receive most attention, but other forms of violence are equally harmful: Violence, physical and psychological, to Black students by the education establishment; domestic violence; the insulting incivility of the media’s relentless violent hyperbole in pursuit of financial gain. It portrays violence as an essential ingredient for “success,” focusing on youth, which has a particularly pernicious effect on Black teenagers and young adults. Exalting violence reflects America’s abject materialism; unfortunately, it seems to work, even though everyone suffers from the fall out.
The focus here is police abuse and Black-on-Black violence for which there are no magic bullets. But complexity is no excuse for dodging critical issues. Without a doubt, the deadly spread of violence among Blacks could, and should, be motivation enough to attack it full force rather than minimize or deny its existence.
There are similarities between Jena Six and the case of 13-year-old Devin Brown, killed in February 2005 in South Los Angeles. Actually, there is a disturbing similarity in virtually all high-profile incidents involving Blacks that create substantial outrage (or support). It is the virtual absence of sustained follow-up.
Examples of local Blacks’ transient outrage include Eula Love, Leonard Deadwyler, Margaret Mitchell, Darryl Miller, Jena Six and most recently, the “Palmdale Four.” Obviously the latter two are too recent to assess, but the smart money is on little if any, sustained follow-up.
Each of these egregious incidents caused anger and outrage and many Blacks vowed to actively work to prevent a recurrence of the particular incident or issue but their commitment and follow-up was, and is, rare. So, while Blacks decry violence and violence-breeding conditions, few seem willing to do something about it.
Violence takes many forms. Devin Brown was killed by a hail of bullets fired by an LAPD officer who not only wasn’t prosecuted, but was subsequently exonerated by an LAPD Board of Rights, who found the killing “in policy.” Shortly after Devin Brown’s death, the Police Commission did adopt a new policy that prohibited use of deadly force when a moving vehicle poses the only danger. Not exactly magnanimous, but the only crumb thrown the community’s way since Devin Brown’s killing.
Most LAPD traditional practices continue unabated. Chief William Bratton back-pedaled on his pledge for greater transparency by embracing redacting the names of officers involved in shootings. He also supported expanding a court decision dealing exclusively with documents, to include disciplinary hearings, as well. What’s new?
(It should come as no surprise that California’s Police Officers Bill of Rights mandates favorable treatment and protective apparatus for every officer in the state under an investigation that could lead to punitive action. Clearly, this has ominous implications for police abuse cases involving Blacks because police rights are paramount-cops are always in win-win situations.)
Community Call to Action and Accountability (CCAA) was formed immediately after Devin Brown’s death. Its purpose is to help empower the community through education and collaborative action, initially focusing on police abuse and Black-on-Black violence. CCAA has met weekly for over two-and-a-half years and continues to address issues related to its mission and responding to requests from victims of violence, and/or their relatives, for immediate assistance. Few other groups have taken up the charge to reduce violence at the grass-roots level and CCAA welcomes new participants. It meets every Tuesday at 7:00 P.M. at Bethel AME Church, 7900 So. Western Avenue, Los Angeles.
Police brutality and Black-on-Black violence in South Los Angeles have not decreased despite skewed research and Chief Bratton’s misleading statistics and prognostications. Even more disturbing, however, is an acceptance of violence by many Blacks as inevitable. Their apparent fatalism and failure to participate in attempting to eliminate violence is arguably the most egregious problem of all.
A “business as usual” mindset lulls many of us into contributing to our own oppression. Devin Brown, Jena Six and all other high-profile incidents should help to unite Blacks on important issues. That has not happened, but must, because a state of urgency exists and is getting worse.
Riveting, high profile incidents do tend to galvanize Blacks. But without sustained follow-up, the incident, event or issue is but a memorable moment in time with little value to the continuing struggle for justice.
Larry Aubry n can be contacted at e-mail