Just two weeks ago, this column was about stopping the killing in Los Angeles. Since then, there were fourteen killings in Los Angeles County in one weekend—most in the city of Los Angeles’ inner cities. This compelled another piece because it is painfully apparent that wanton killings are at epidemic levels in certain neighborhoods.
Notwithstanding editorial comment, police press conferences, vigils for victims (and residents, etc.), little, if anything, changes have taken place after these killings. In the ensuing weeks and months, these communities remain under siege with virtually no solace on the horizon.
Communities under siege are themselves a major part of the problem but they are also the chief hope for change. They must perceive themselves as invaluable players, which they are. They are the ones to lead the fight to stop the madness, but cannot be expected to do it alone. (And for Blacks, support of the middle class, elected officials and all others willing to assist is critical.) The absence of political will, effective leadership and active participation of those most affected by the killings, represent barriers to be removed.
Adopting different behavior and values necessary for change are huge imperatives; impacted neighborhoods must be the first line of resistance. This is a monumental task for any group but especially those marginalized by society, mired in poverty and stymied by unrequited rage.
A vigil for a twenty-year-old victim of the weekend massacre reflected the full spectrum of emotions. On the corner of 95th Street and Vermont Avenue in South Central Los Angeles, residents shared perceptions, pain and muted hope for a better future. The gathering openly vented a range sentiment and frustration. Most remarks were directed at the youth—who, at one point, retreated into a private huddle, but returned to the main gathering at the urging of elders. (This may surprise to those accustomed to teenagers being on entirely different wave lengths and more likely to “shine on adults” than respond to their requests.)
Person after person poignantly conveyed fear and frustration about the recent spike in killings in their neighborhood. Most feel Black-on-Black killings especially, are tearing the community apart and they are very concerned about the safety of their children.
The city’s “Gang Czar,” Jeff Carr also spoke, essentially concurring with residents’ sentiments. He urged residents to stay vigilant, work together, and with the police, to stop the killings. A veteran Black plain clothes cop spoke directly to the young children, before suddenly stopping, apparently unable to handle the implications of the killings or the gravity of his own remarks. He concluded abruptly, “This is a very complex problem.”
Neighborhoods inundated with violence and killings do have primary responsibility for alleviating the problem but need all available assistance in order to do so. Predictably, self-serving “community activists” will attempt to exploit the situation. However, it is also predictable that they will leave as media opportunities wane. An education system that continues to fail children of color, rogue cops, and uninvolved, unaccountable parents and residents, must be dealt with as major obstacles to solving the problem. Unfortunately, a prevailing, understandable distrust among residents, based on their life experiences, often serves as a rationalization for inaction that fuels a surface acceptance of the status quo that obviously is not in their best interests.
The killings reverberate far beyond the “hood” and inevitably affect the quality of life in the entire city. (A troubling by-product of Black middle-class progress is a greater than ever chasm between them and poorer Blacks that must be breached.)
The antecedents of Black-on-Black violence are well known and include slavery’s devastating legacy of self-hate, especially evident in poor young Black males; one of the most poignant and sinister indicators of conditioned violence is a steely nonchalance of many Black youth towards the pain and suffering of others, evident in schools and the mean streets.
What does the future hold? Real change demands new partnerships throughout local communities and beyond, i.e., between local communities, parents, schools, law enforcement, government agencies, etc. It is predicated on new, committed leadership and a reassessment of values and priorities.
Black-on-Black violence is the culmination of systemic oppression still manifested by frustration and hopelessness among the Black population. Creating a different reality that significantly reduces such violence necessitates new thinking and new behavior. And Blacks themselves must be chief engineers of change that requires unaccustomed unity for collective rather than individual benefit.
We are the true architects of our future.
Larry Aubry n can be contacted at e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.