News & Politics

Black Homicides Fuel Nation's Murder Surge

The violence stems from a combustible blend of cultural and racial baggage many blacks carry, and the implicit message that black lives are expendable.
The news that nine blacks were shot and two were killed in New Orleans made headline news for a hot minute only because the shootings happened as tourists rushed into the city for the start of Mardi Gras week.

If it hadn't been for the world famous party going event, the black-on-black violence would have been a ho-hum occurrence that wouldn't have gotten a line in the national press.

Black-on black murder may be a non-story, but the tragedy is that black homicides fuel the nation's murder surge. A week before the New Orleans carnage, the Violence Policy Center reported that black murders are off-the chart in many of America's big cities. The Bureau of Justice in its report on homicides went one better and found that the black murder rate is many times higher than that of whites, or even Latinos. In fact it's the leading cause of death among black males age 16 to 34.

By contrast, among white males murder drops to number five after accidents, suicide, cancer and heart disease as a cause of death. More police, dozens of new prisons and passing tougher laws haven't curbed black violence. And they won't. Blacks don't slaughter each other at such a terrifying rate because they are naturally violent or crime prone. They are not killing each other simply because they are poor and victimized by discrimination. Or because they are acting out the obscene and lewd violence they see and hear on TV, films, and in the gangster rap lyrics that blare on the streets.

The violence stems from a combustible blend of cultural and racial baggage many blacks carry. In the past crimes committed by blacks against other blacks were often ignored or lightly punished. The implicit message is that black lives were expendable. Many studies confirm that the punishment blacks receive when the victim is white is far more severe than if the victim is black.

The perceived devaluation of black lives by discrimination encourages disrespect for the law and drives many blacks to internalize anger and displace aggression onto others that, of course, look like them. They have become especially adept at acting out their frustrations at white society's denial of their "manhood" by adopting an exaggerated "tough guy" role. They swagger, boast, curse, fight and commit violent self-destructive acts.

The accessibility of drugs, and guns, and the influence of misogynist, violent-laced rap songs also reinforce the deep feeling among many youth that life is cheap and easy to take, and there will be minimal consequences for their action as long as their victims are other young blacks. And as long as the attackers regard their victims as weak, vulnerable, and easy pickings they will continue to kill and maim with impunity.

The other powerful ingredient in the deadly mix of black-on-black violence is the gang and drug plague. The spread of the drug trade during the 1980's made black youth gangs even bigger and more dangerous. Drug trafficking not only provided illicit profits but also made gun play even more widespread. Gang members use their arsenals to fend off attacks, protect their profits from hostile predators, and to settle scores with rivals.

The Bureau of Justice report traces the recent escalation in the black homicide rates to busted drug deals, competition over markets and disputes over turf. When innocent victims are caught in these shoot-outs, that fortifies the conviction of suburban whites that black neighborhoods are depraved war zones.

The Violence Policy Center says that the answer is to get the guns off the streets. In other words pass even more draconian gun control laws. That's the favorite liberal reformers panacea to the murder plague. And while there are way too many guns on America's streets, all the gun laws on the books wouldn't have stopped the Mardi Gras shooting mayhem in New Orleans or for that matter the killings in any other big city.

What's an answer than?

Black parents, churches and organizations such as the NAACP that are quick to storm the barricades against civil rights abuses must make stopping black violence a priority. They can do much more to provide positive and wholesome mentoring and role models for at risk young blacks. And that doesn't mean cheerleading them when they buy $250 sneakers they don't have the money for, or turning a blind eye when they skip school.

In other words, they have to show by word and deed that the lives of at risk young blacks count for something. The rash of shootings in New Orleans during Mardi Gras week is yet another tragic warning that the flower of black youth is in mortal harms way. It's time to do something about that.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is a political analyst and social issues commentator, and the author of the book, The Emerging Black GOP Majority (Middle Passage Press, September 2006), a hard-hitting look at Bush and the GOP's court of black voters.
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