By LENNOX FARRELL
This curse is among the worst of the worst ever visited, historically or currently, on Black communities; as injurious externally as it is internally murderous.
Among the possible factors considered as causative are addiction, criminal intent, incarceration, unemployment, education, history, anti-Black racism and profiling among other things.
Whatever the reason, this terrorizing is destabilizing 21st century Black communities, and possibly with as much injurious consequences as was 19th century enslavement.
Thus, avoiding this issue is to also ignore, among others, the criminally-absurd phenomenon of homicide being the major cause of death for young Black males; that the primary killing of Black women, ages 15 to 34 occurs at the hands of a Black partner; and that the occurrence of this curse is global.
To put some badly needed balance to the above, it is not that these occurrences are unique to Black communities. In the present as in the past, there also continues to be ‘White on White crime’. Also, within other communities of different races and peoples, anti-social and criminal actions are prevalent.
These realities, however, are no consolation to Black communities whether directly stricken with this iniquity, or indirectly affected as observers. Moreover, while crime is also present elsewhere, within those other communities, their youth do not as readily slay each other, and for reasons similarly trivial.
For purposes of trying for possible solutions, can ‘Black on Black violence’ then be labelled as one manifestation of hate crimes; but crimes uniquely of self-hatred?
Within Black communities, too, the prevalence of this violence appears to be not only unavoidable, but to also be a defining factor, or branding, of Blacks as communities and equally as individuals. It is now used to define us, whether or not we as individuals engage in criminality. None of us escapes this global branding insomuch that individuals who might never have met a Black person is nonetheless tainted with this stereotyping.
The prevalence of this ‘Black on Black terrorizing’, like some social pandemic, occurs in neighbourhoods regardless of their distance, one from the other: from Los Angeles, USA, to Johannesburg, South Africa, to Morvant-Laventille, Trinidad & Tobago.
Morvant-Laventille is the combined names of two historic places in T&T. It was within the cultural bowels of these communities that the steel-pan was born and grown. More locally, it was in the surrounding areas, for example, ‘Behind-the Bridge’, that today’s carnivals at home and abroad, acquired their structural traits of ‘mas sections’; unfortunately degenerating later, tourist-style. Each ‘section’ had then come from the different warrens, sections, or narrow ‘streets’ lined with shacks.
Hugging the Eastern outskirts of the capital, Port of Spain, these areas remain historic enclaves of chronic poverty, unrivalled creativity, routine oppression and retail crime – otherwise wholesaled within some respected, if not respectable, gated neighbourhoods.
Seen through the prisms of history, these areas – and contiguous malarial swamps – had been occupied by the descendants of former slaves. After emancipation was proclaimed, the British Colonial office had not made any provision for the slaves to now have any viable occupation or life. In fact, the possible viable was made the unviable.
While every other community had ready access to Crown lands – for example, Whites initially indentured, and then East Indians, being allotted acreages as compensation for servitude – the former slaves, based on colonial instructions to local administrations could only occupy these lands by paying one pound sterling per acre.
These past injustices, however, do not excuse current levels of criminality and destabilization in these areas in T&T. In fact, new and frightening occurrences, as frequently occur in some failed city-states of Mexico, have now entered T&T’s scenes of criminality: beheadings, and more communally heinous, the deliberate torching of neighbourhoods in gang-related retaliations and counter-retaliations.
Moreover, when the joint presence of heavily armed police and army, in round-the-clock patrols, cannot ensure a modicum sense of safety, and of mundane peace, thereby ensuring that law-abiding citizens find rest in their own homes and their children attend school, these occurrences are, in my opinion, national in their levels of crisis.
Based on much of the studies done, and from literature for and against, what might cornerstone today’s criminal phemonena? Income? Unemployment? Unemployability? Education? Genetic and/or environmental influences?
In North America, in addition to these is added the systematic devaluing of property in Black neighbourhoods. Among relevant factors here are political changes in who, racially, might run City Hall. With the election of Black politicians, jobs tend to migrate, and to areas which lack public transportation. This flight of stable employment arguably leads to the flight of the Black middle/working classes, leaving behind Black communities even more vulnerable to exploitation; to ultimately drifting into concentrations of poverty and hopelessness?
In conclusion, is it that Black communities – as with others – wherever we live and move and have our being, are the consequences of societal expectations and subsequently of institutions? And that ours are extensions of low expectations and incarcerations?
Is it that Black children raised in run-down, garbage-strewn, pot-holed communities, where buying bullets is easier than buying fresh fruit, live with free-floating levels of anxiety akin to those experienced by soldiers preparing for war? And from kindergarten ages? Is it that a life that is hopeless is also a life that is valueless? And remorseless?
To be continued.