Black Lives Matters has taken the world by storm. Black Lives Matter was created by 3 Queer Black women. It describes itself as “a chapter-based, member-led organization whose mission is to build local power and to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes”.
The emergence of Black Lives Matter followed the death of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Erika Boyd, Philando Castile, Tanisha Anderson, Charleena Lyles, Freddie Gray and other unarmed African Americans at the hands of law enforcement. Black Lives Matter has helped create a national conversation in the media, accademia and the public square around the value we place on the lives of black men and women in the world, particularly in the United States. They describe their mission as one of “connecting Black people from all over the world who have a shared desire for justice to act together in their communities. The impetus for that commitment was, and still is, the rampant and deliberate violence inflicted on us by the state. Some of its chapters such as Toronto have drawn criticism for its confrontational methods.
The issue of police violence is very sensitive. It is not a contemporary issue. Police violence continues to rear its ugly head throughout American history most famously displayed in the case of Rodney King in 1992. According to John McWhorter it is the main reason African Americans believe anti-black racism pervades American society. Despite the expansion of the middle class and reduced poverty and unemployment rates. The proliferation of camera phones has brought the reality into the T.V and computer screens of many who were otherwise oblivious.
If I am being honest I am still learning about the issue and weighing the claims of Black Lives Matter. For it is more complex than political pundits make it out to be. As of now I believe intraracial murder is the biggest threat to black lives. Nevertheless, we should be concerned about lives lost to those sworn to serve and protect citizens. The images of young men and women being choked out or shot as they flee law enforcement should disturb us. We can tackle police violence and interracial murder simultaneously as they are connected.
Intraracial murder is a gotcha issue for many on the political right. Many use it to dismiss the valid concerns over the relationship between police and diasporic communties. I’ve seen many jump at the chance to pathologize African American communities as morally reprobate, culturally inferior and unattuned to their own needs. The charge is often “why don’t you guys care about black on black crime? “What about Chicago"?
I think this sort of political showing is disgusting. The deaths of black men in urban enclaves are not to be used as punches in political warfare. They are not just nameless statistics. These are brothers, fathers, friends and most importantly human beings.
It's a lie from the pits of hell to say that African Americans and other diasporic communities don’t care about intraracial murder. We do. I care. A lot. There are many people and organizations working to reduce the carnage in urban enclaves across North American cities. I know this because I've spent hours with members of various black communities brainstorming solutions for murder.
Nevertheless, many of us respond, and perhaps misguided, to these charges by diminishing the high rates of victimization and the carnage happening on the ground.
Black men are 6% of the U.S population but make up 40 % of the United State’s murder victims. They are the U.S’s number one murder victims according to Jill Levoy.
And I didn't understand why this was. The only answers afforded to me were either that black people were culturally violent or victims of poverty. Both explanations left me unsatisfied.
My search for answers led me to Ghettoside: a story of murder in America. A novel by Jill Levoy. This book has been a blessing. My eyes fill with tears as I recall what I’ve read. The book is intimate and personal. It demonstrates the urgency of the issue and provides context without patholgizing the communities involved. It has reaffirmed my commitment to create healthy communities. I look foward to highlighting what I've learned in the next article.
Until the ink drips,