Sadly, Violence Among Blacks Unchecked
Â It is axiomatic that statistics are often misleading and Los Angeles Police Department data citing a major drop in homicides citywide is a prime example. The fact is, in many neighborhoods in South Central Los Angeles and surrounding areas, homicides and other forms of violence among Blacks remain the tragic norm. (The pain of victims’ families and friends at gut-wrenching vigils defies adequate description.)
(“Black on Black violence” suggests violence among Blacks somehow differs from violence in other groups. Violence among whites isn’t called “White on White violence” and violence among Latinos-except in the context of gang warfare-is not referred to as “Latino on Latino violence.” The term “Black on Black violence is misleading and should not be used.)
Violence among Blacks is a manifestation of self-hate spawned and nurtured by racism and fueled, in part, by Blacks themselves. Currently, for middle-class Blacks especially, violence is a topic for discussion, not action. They have deluded themselves into acting like, though not necessarily believing, that violence is not their problem. As long as race determines who is and is not privileged, all Blacks will continue to be systemically diminished. President Barack Obama’s’ “rising tide lifts all boats” theory is pure wishful thinking.
In Los Angeles, many Blacks have the mistaken notion that Black-Latino violence is “the problem.” Not true. Violence against other Blacks (and Latinos against Latinos) is by far, more common and more devastating.
Most people are aware of the major factors that contribute to violence in the nation’s inner cities-poverty, failing schools, gangs, absentee parents, few resources, etc. Equally important, but seldom adequately discussed, are the serious effects of these factors on Black youth. Absent positive parental and adult role models and support, culturally coded behavior is preferable (e.g., gangs) and becomes the norm, resulting in the overwhelming dominance of peer groups. It also contributes to an almost complete disconnect between public school curriculum and the world in which the children live. Tepid, ineffective Black leadership also contributes to violence among Blacks; their silence on this seminal issue is reprehensible.
Continuity of culture and identity are the foundation for social, economic and political advancement for most groups that voluntarily migrated to this country. Of course, this is not true for Blacks who, although remarkably resilient, still suffer the scars of slavery. The assault on slave’s culture, language, family and values resulted in disunity and disorientation, major obstacles to group development. Systemic disenfranchisement included a lack of access to societal benefits and violence became part of Blacks’ arsenal to counter continuing inequities.
Social movements, before and after the civil rights era, emphasized self-pride and community service that have steadily disappeared from Blacks’ collective radar. The Internet and texting add immensely to convenience but contribute virtually nothing to the quality of life. And for Black youth, especially, high tech serves as the latest distraction, and barrier, to their focusing on self-help, education and other positive areas for advancement.
All of this has profound, but unacknowledged impact on the degree and sustainability of violence for the average Black person. Coupled with a failure to hold elected officials and other leaders accountable, protracted silence also contributes to continuing unattended violence.
Franz Fanon, the eminent Black psychiatrist, asserted that the oppressed after a period of time, adopt the views and values of the oppressor; 21st century America still sends a message to Blacks and other non-whites that their lives are less valuable. And in acting out against their own Blacks validate that myth. Public institutions, including the courts echo that belief by not treating crimes against Blacks as seriously as crimes against other groups. (And, having internalized the values of the majority, for many Blacks, to move on the “system” is to move on themselves.)
Some possible solutions for reducing violence among Blacks are: honest, objective assessment of the problem; existing barriers, as well as potential strategies for meeting the challenge must be explicit; strategic prevention is as important, even more so, than intervention that receives much greater emphasis; sustained dialogue on violence among Black leadership, together with concerned community people, is critically important; and specific strategies to strengthen family ties and demanding that schools provide a quality education for Black students are also key. These are only a few possibilities, there are many more.
Violence among Blacks is the culmination of ongoing oppression and hopelessness manifested in anger and distrust, but only sporadic outrage. Nonetheless, reducing violence among Blacks is not only doable but imperative for future success and perhaps even our very survival.
Larry Aubry can be contacted at e-mail [email protected].