Community resources and ‘Black on Black violence’

By Lennox Farrell Wednesday May 01 2013 in Opinion
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If there is one fact useful in addressing the issue of “Black on Black violence” it is that it is an issue that is multi-dimensional.


Among these dimensions is that the very term, “Black on Black” is racialized. Codified, and while it is no different from other forms of intra-community violence, for example, “White on White violence”, “Italian on Italian violence”, etc., solving it makes it no easier, but in fact, makes it more difficult.


This does not mean it is unsolvable. What it means is that the resources to do so do not lie within Black communities. However, it is in my opinion, solvable. To get to this requires re-assessment of some causal reasons.


It also begs why governments like the U.S. can effectively address other forms of violence, like the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, yet seem unable to address the killings of Black Americans by other Black Americans.


Thus, according to the website of the FBI on crime statistics, in 2010 (the last year of statistics available) there were roughly 640,000 African-Americans (49.8 per cent of all homicides) murdered in the U.S. in 2010.


In that year, there were about 1.2 million murders of which 77 per cent were males. In short, while Black Americans represent 12 per cent of the U.S. population, they annually account for about 50 per cent of homicides, with Black males accounting for more than 75 per cent.


By comparison, in response to the 9/11 attack, the U.S. launched its Homeland Security with a budget in the trillions. And while there have been similar attacks since, the last in Boston two weeks ago, the levels of violence are being curtailed and resources of the federal, state and other levels of government, media etc., effectively deployed against these attacks on Americans.


America takes these killings seriously. This is unlike the official response to the killings of Black Americans in Black communities. The numbers since 2010 have not declined. Yet there is no similar response as there has been for 9/11 apart from the building of more prisons, many privatized.


To come back to the racialized aspects of this term, “Black on Black violence”, arrest data on violent crimes also indicate that violent crimes, especially murders, involve intra-racial victim-offender relationship patterns.


For example, in 1993, 94 per cent of Black murder victims were killed by Black offenders and 84 per cent of White murder victims were killed by White offenders. Yet, the characterization of these crimes stereotype one community and not another. In fact, it is correct to state that all communities are “stereotyped”, or branded, but not in manners which are similar in descriptions and subsequent impacts.


Therefore, for White communities, the branding or stereotyping is along a wider spectrum. Some branding – as mass murderers – show White men in a negative light, but even more do so in positive ones – as scientists, researchers, etc. Other communities are also branded positively. In short, communities that have greater control over how they are portrayed are branded more positively than negatively. Those with lesser control are branded more negatively.


Therefore, while more Black youth stay in school and graduate, for Black communities, it is the youth who are engaged in negative activities whose images are used to reinforce anti-Black stereotypes in the news.


Why this differentiation in response? Is it that the lives of Black Americans are valued less than for others? Is it that accusations of anti-Black racism, while valid, mute the responses of the authorities? Is it that such forms of communal-based violence are most effectively addressed at communal levels?


The fact that these plagues of violence are global, from Toronto to Port-of-Spain to Johannesburg to Los Angeles does not make for easier solutions. Herein might lie some of the factors from which solutions might come.


Among the characteristics which link these killings are the following: In addition, violent crime is typically perpetrated by young males. Thus, from sources as the FBI, the average age range of Black murder victims and perpetrators is between 15 and 34. That is, among Black youth, regardless of where they reside, this age range appears to be the one most murder-prone. The age range in which youth are generally more hopeful about their future, is the one in which our youth are more fearful of dying.


There are also other disturbing trends. One is the dramatic increase of death due to homicide among Black males 15 to 19 years of age compared to those aged 20 to 24. However, while there is a tendency to focus on violence among young Black males 15 to 24 years of age, it should be noted that older Black males in all age ranges have higher rates of death for homicide than their White counterparts.


As if this data from the FBI and elsewhere is not troubling enough, there are other data of concern. Among these are the following: Black males 45 to 54 years of age had homicide rates six times that of White males of similar age; elderly Black males 65 to 74 years of age had homicide rates nearly eight times that of elderly White males.


This brief review indicates that, from the cradle to the grave, Black males have a greater risk of homicide than any other race/sex subgroup.


Is there any solution and hope for Black males? Without sufficient community resources?


Yes, but none that is easy, inexpensive, and short-term.


To be continued.


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