“N*gger life’s cheap now,” a white Tennessean offered during Reconstruction, when asked to explain why bl*ck-on-bl*ck killings drew so little notice.”
Black men are 6% of the U.S population but make up 40 % of the United State’s murder victims. The leading cause of death for black men between the ages of 22 to 44 is homicide. They are America's number one murder victim.
Before I proceed I just want to provide a disclaimer; most black men in the U.S.A are doing well. I can't stress this enough as we tend to approach "Black" people, communities and men from a deficit perceptive.
Perhaps a bit redundant for my regular readers, but I'll continue to cite a new report by the American Enterprise Institute, “Black Men Making it in America,” uses Census data to show that African-American men are succeeding in the United States:
The issue of urban homicide occurs at the intersection of race and class. We don't see the rates of victimization in affluent African American communities such as Baldwin Hills (Black Beverly Hills), View Park- Windsor Hill, Ladera Heights California, Mitchelleville Maryland, Fort Washington, HillCrest, Uniondale etc. African American communities I wish more people knew about.
When I say Black men I'm talking about men from what researchers have dubbed the underclass.
There are 4 Black Americas according to Eugene Robinson, columnist for the Washington Post:
Furthermore, urban homicide is just one of 4 gun violence problems in America. The other ones being suicide which largely affects white men, domestic violence which largely affects women and mass shootings that affect everyone. The causes and solutions to each vary.
Moreover, most Black people are killed by other black people. This is not groundbreaking. One of the reasons is because of proximity. Most Americans are killed by other Americans. And most whites are killed by other white people.But the question remains why is the rate of intraracial violence higher in urban enclaves?
I'll be providing excerpts from the novel Ghettoside as well as my own commentary
The novel Ghettoside offers a very simple explaination: where the criminal justice system fails to respond vigorously to violent injury and death, homicide becomes endemic.
"Black America has not benefited from what Max Weber called a state monopoly on violence- the governments exclusive rights to exercise legitimate force. A monopoly provides citizens with legal autonomy, the liberating knowledge that the government will pursue anyone who violates their personal safety."
"But Chattle slavery, Jim Crow, and conditions across much of black America for generations after worked against the formation of such a monopoly where blacks were concerned. Since personal violence inevitably flared where the state's monopoly is absent, this situation results in the deaths of thousands of Americans each year."
Black Americans are not more criminal. Not more violent. Not culturally inferior. It's what I knew all along: Africans Americans and all other people of African descent are human. And humans have killed each other for much of human history. Until the intervention of law. However African Americans have existed outside of the establishment of law and that is the number one reason why intraracial violence persists. Poor African American communities don't suffer from lack of law enforcment but they suffer from the abscence of law. This is not unique to African Americans. What people call the "Monster"- high rates of homicide- lurks in the shadows in any place "where formal law is weak."
"Thus, some Indian tribes in Canada and the U.S have disproportionate homicide rates, as do ethnic and immigrants enclaves in Switzerland, England, Wales and Italy. In the peaceful Netherlands, non Dutch ethnics suffer many times the homicide rate of their Dutch compatriots. Eighteenth century rates among settlers on the wilde edge of the American colonies were almost exactly those of South Central blacks in the twenty first century. In the town of Tira, Israel, today, Arab citizens of Israel also suffer a homicide rate similar to that of black South Central."
"It’s like a default setting. Wherever human beings are forced to deal with each other under conditions of weak legal authority, the Monster lurks. The ancient Greeks wrote of the Furies, hideous black gorgons who held grudges and rasped, “Get him, get him, get him. They could only be subdued only by law."
"The Monster's source was not general perversity of mind in the population that suffered. It was a weak legal apparatus that had long failed to place black injuries and the loss of black lives at the heart of its response when mobilizing the law, first in the South and later in segregated cities. The cases didn't get solved, and year after year, assaults piled upon another, black men got shot up and killed, no one answered for it, and no one really cared much."
"Forty years after the the civil rights movement, impunity for the murder of black men remained America's great, though mostly invisible, race problem. The institutions of criminal justice, so remorseless in other ways in an era of get tough sentencing and "preventing" policing, remained feeble when it came to answering for the lives of black murder victims."
It might not seem self evident that impunity for white violence against blacks would engender black-on-black on murder. But when people are stripped of legal protection and placed in desperate straits, they are more, not less, likely to turn on each other. Lawless setting are terrifying, if people can do whatever they want to each other, there are always enough bullies to make it ugly...
But community spawns community justice; the village gives rise to the feud. The condition of being thrown together just because they were the same skin colour should be considered one of the injustices black people suffered in segregation.
For people of all colours, the south was a stew of factors that produced homicide- a place where law remained a contested prize in a low level , unfinished revolution. But black people experienced law, both its action and inaction, as a systematic extension of the campaign of terrorist violence that brought an end to Reconstruction and stripped them of their rights under the Constitution.
Black protest against overzealous police and prosecutors remains a cherished template for left-leaning critics of criminal justice. But another, profound grievance of the period went mostly ignored- the inadequacy of official response to intraracial violence.
What are people fighting about?
The fights might be spontaneous, part of some long-running feud, or the culmination of “some drama,” as Skaggs would put it. These male “dramas,” he observed, were not so different from those among quarreling women of the projects. In fact, they were often extensions of them. The observation fit scores of killing in L.A that cops chalked up to “female problems.”
The smallest ghettoside spat seemed to escalate to violence, as of absent law, people were left with no other means of bringing a dispute to a close. Debts and competition over goods and women-especially women-drove many killings. But insults, snitching, drunken antics, and the classic- unwanted party guest - also were common homicide motives.
Small conflicts divided people into hostile camps and triggered lasting feuds. “Grudges!” Skaggs would exclaim: to him the word summed up scores of cases. Every grudge seemed to harbour explosive potential. It would ignite when antagonists met by chance in the streets or in liquor stores. Vengeance was a staple motive. In some circles, retaliation for murder was considered all but mandatory. It was striking how openly people discussed it, even debating the merits from pulpit at funerals.
Shadow Legal System
The alternate ghettoside “law” in Watts was exactly like this- a vague and sinister force transcending any body of definite rules. The shadow system had long ago evolved to the point that a mere hard look or the sucking of a tooth conveyed its lethal force
The void of law was filled with an extralegal system,
In the dim early stirrings of civilization, many scholars believe, law itself was developed as a response to legal “self-help”: people’s desire to settle their own scores. Rough justice slowly gave way to organized state monopolies on violence. The low homicide rates of some modern democracies are, perhaps, an aberration in human history. They were built, as the scholar Erich Monkkonen said, not by any formal act, but “by a much longer development process whereby individuals willingly giving up their implicit power to the state”
There are many challenges to this viewpoint, and many variations on it. But history shows us that lawlessness is its own kind order. Murder outbreaks, seen this way, are more than just the proliferation of discrete crimes. They are part of a whole system of interactions determined by the absence of law. European history offers a panoply of rough justice systems based on personal vengeance, blood feuds, shaming rituals, and sundry forms of retributive and clan violence. Frequent homicide was a part of this picture High homicide rates have also been recorded among hunter-gatherer peoples and other societies without elaborate legal structures.
Summary of Causes of Intraracial Murder
In the next article I will talk about the neighbourhoods most affected, men and women doing working on the ground and possible solutions
Until the ink drops,