Aided by a collective community silence, violence among inner-city Blacks remains high. Blacks denounce violence, but in some inner-city neighborhoods still kill each other with near epidemic frequency. And unfortunately, relatively few are involved in long term efforts to eliminate what amounts to continuing fratricide. Ironically, violence among Blacks is both condemned and perpetuated, even by those most victimized. But violence reduction has never been an actual political priority and without sustainable community outrage, strong leadership and political will, it will likely continue unabated.
(The term Black-on-Black violence, though common among Blacks whites, and others, is highly misleading and should not be used at all. It implies that Blacks have a unique, if not genetic, propensity for violent behavior, which is nonsense. No one talks about “white-on-white violence” or “European-on-European violence,” so why Black-on-Black violence’? The term is not only misleading, but it fosters a stereotype that among Blacks, violence is inherently different than violence among and between other groups.)
The underlying factors are clear: Violence among Blacks in inner cities especially, is a manifestation of race-based poverty, frustration and self-hate, nurtured by systemic neglect and aggravated by the tacit, conditioned indifference on the part of Blacks themselves. A particularly disturbing example of violence’s pernicious impact is a steely nonchalance of many Black inner-city children towards the pain and suffering of others. Many seem immune, or impervious to the constant violence that surrounds their lives. Without strategic, effective intervention, they are destined to perpetuate a culture largely devoid of vision and hope. All Blacks have a responsibility to see to it that this does not happen.
Violence among Blacks mimics the endemic violence on which this country was built and reflects slavery’s crippling, enduring legacy. Slavery and psycho-social conditioning go hand in hand as antecedents of the self-hate that is especially evident in poor young Black males. A collective denial and/or minimizing of the continuing significance of these factors, by middle-class Blacks especially, serves to prolong critically needed sustainable violence reduction efforts.
America’s foundational materialism and individualism are integral components of violence among Blacks, even though, obviously, they were never part of the “justice for all” equation. But a major problem is that Blacks have internalized the White majority’s values without full access to its benefits. The following are examples of barriers to Blacks’ progress that also contribute to Black violence. The list is by no means exhaustive.
Having internalized America’s values, Blacks are often reluctant to challenge the powers that be because to do so is tantamount to blaming themselves. Hence, the ambivalence and resulting ingrained difficulty in shedding second-class citizenship. It is an affliction that renders many Blacks complicit in their own demise. Other manifestations of the “less than white” syndrome include: self-hate/low self-esteem, a persistent unwillingness to challenge systemic inequities, Black youth’s dysfunctional behavior, public policy that codifies injustice and inequality based on race and class, and education systems that fail Black children. The growing chasm between middle-class and poorer Blacks is another major obstacle in the struggle for equitable resources and social justice.
Blacks realize that race matters but many are in denial; fearing loss of material gains, they have opted out of the civil/human rights struggle although they know full well that racism is alive and well. But Black s’ resilience should never be underestimated; the struggle to reduce pervasive violence is not only possible, it is inevitable.
New alternative strategies for reducing violence among Blacks must include sustainable partnerships among and between local Black communities, parents, schools, law enforcement, public agencies and Black leadership. Common ground cannot be assumed, it must be explicit, and bottom to top accountability is an integral component in any the new empowerment paradigm. Reducing Black violence also requires that parents and concerned others be accountable for their respective responsibilities. Youth involvement and leadership must be a prominent part of new collaborative leadership models.
Also, the lack of quality public health services bears significantly on violence among Blacks and in Los Angeles County where there is a critical need to reopen Martin Luther King Hospital as a full-service institution. It serves an area that is perhaps the nation’s poorest and most critically in need of quality health services.
Violence among Blacks is the culmination of prolonged neglect, frustration and hopelessness; sadly, our own indifference and inaction contribute to a continuing debilitating conundrum. Reducing the violence requires new, collaborative efforts based on common ground, mutual interests and respect, and engaging the full spectrum of the Black community, especially the poorest and others most in need.
Larry Aubry can be contacted at e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.