There indeed is tragedy in black America. Violence and the anger it births is not foreign to me as a target of gang violence myself. However, the tragedy in black America is overshadowed by the death of Michael Brown, 18, in Ferguson, Missouri. The facts of his murder have not yet been revealed but blacks in Ferguson handed their own community five nights of violent protest in response to the death of the unarmed teen caused by a Ferguson police officer. Small businesses were destroyed, innocent neighbors terrorized, and the town was set ablaze all beyond the capacity of the local police department to handle. These types of killings in the black community are outrageous (remember Oscar Grant at the Fruitvale Station in Oakland, California) and are often met with riotous behavior. The murder of an unarmed teen by police cannot be overlooked and deserves an appropriate response in a civilized society. Any officer who uses excessive or unnecessary force must be brought to justice.
However, the death of Michael Brown alone is not the tragedy that deserves a riot. This is not the death that Al Sharpton should be locking arms and marching over. This is not the death the New Black Panther Party should be interrupting press conferences over. Yes, it is particularly injurious when unarmed blacks are killed by the police. The anger is fueled by racial profiling and the perception that law enforcement is unfair to blacks. The history that once made indiscriminate killing (lynching) of blacks either legal or not punishable is not so far in the distant past. It still stings. However, killings perpetrated by law enforcement pale in comparison to black-on-black crime and thus the real tragedy in the black community are overlooked.
Homicide victims usually are killed by people of their own race and ethnicity. The pattern goes back at least a generation, the Wall Street Journal reported back 2012. Blacks are killed by blacks 94% of the time. Black-on black-crime is the by-product of a larger problem in black America.
In January 2014, the Violence Policy Center reported the following statistics. In 2011 there were 6,309 black homicide victims in the United States. The homicide rate among black victims in the United States was 17.51 per 100,000. For whites, the national homicide rate was 2.64 per 100,000.
Nebraska is ranked first as the state with the highest black homicide victimization rate. Its rate of 34.43 per 100,000 was nearly double the national average for black homicide victims. Nebraska was followed by Missouri (33.38), Michigan (31.54), Pennsylvania (29.02), and Oklahoma (25.51).
The recent losses of Michael Brown and Ezell Ford in Los Angeles are sad and demand a response and healing in those communities. But we must not overlook the black bodies that stack up year after year mostly at the hands of other blacks.
The commonalities between black on black crimes on a state-by-state basis is that they predominantly occur in inner cities where poverty and gang activity are commonplace. While many scholars want to blame access to guns as the cause of these murders, they conveniently ignore the real life conditions in black communities. When large swaths of a community are disproportionately unemployed (11.5%), unable to compete because the public education system keeps blacks hostage in failing schools, prior non-violent felonies prevent blacks from gainful employment, or the access to cheap narcotics is readily available to numb the pain, rage will always be the by-product.
Until we really address poverty and failing education in black America in meaningful ways, black-on-black crime will continue to be the story that is ignored. Unfortunately, food stamps and Common Core are not the answers. Second Chance legislation, School Choice (vouchers), responsible fatherhood, and prayer are among the best spring boards to a new day in black America. These are the things our black leaders should be marching over. Perhaps there is not enough press for them to galvanize around those things that will actually make a difference.