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 victims.
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,” which 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 or out of the ordinary. According to the FBI’s uniform crime-reporting data for 2016, 90.1 percent of black victims of homicide were killed by other blacks, while 83.5 percent of whites were killed by other whites. And one of the reasons is proximity. People tend to kill people they live close to.
But the question remains why does intraracial violence persist in urban enclaves? Why are the victimization rates higher in places such as St. Louis, Baltimore, New Orleans, L.A and Chicago?
I'll be providing helpful excerpts from the novel Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America . As I believe the excerpts speak for themselves. And will be adding my own commentary when appropriate.
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 calls a state monopoly on violence- the government's exclusive right 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 most of human history. Until the intervention of law. However African Americans have existed outside the establishment of law and that is the number one reason why intraracial violence persists. Poor African American communities do not suffer from lack of law enforcement presence 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."
"It’s like a default setting. Wherever human beings are forced to deal with each other under conditions of weak legal authority...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 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."
We see high murder rates among Indigenious communities in Canada and South Africa. To ethnic immigrants in Switzerland, England, Wales, Netherlands and Italy. To Palestinians in Israel. High murder rates in certain groups are a worldwide phenomenon. It exist among these groups not because they are more culturally violent but because they live outside the protection of the law.
Historical Context and Result
"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.
One of my biggest frustrations with discussions on race is the vague language commentators employ. Words like "systematic racism" and "institutional racism" are often poorly defined and mean different things to different people. What I lament most is our inability to provide concrete examples of anti-blackness on mass scale in North America. This creates a lot of skepticism on the part of listeners and we are losing people by the minute.
Urban homicide turns that skepticism on its head. The failure of major institutions to effectively protect and prosecute anyone who violates black lives is the greatest example of systematic racism and anti-blackness in contemporary America.
"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 "preventive" policing, remained feeble when it came to answering for the lives of black murder victims."
As a radical centrist who identifies as a Black conservative I take a serious issue with how the political right discusses this issue.
It's common knowledge that as right wingers we pat ourselves on the back for honouring statistics and data. In regards to Urban homicide we've failed to communicate very important information. And in the process we've hardened the hearts of people who would otherwise be allies. We perpetuate anti-blackness every time we bring up this issue without providing the context with which urban homicide was birthed and nourished- Chattel slavery and Jim Crow. This is not me invoking victimhood for I wish it wasn't so. I know we'd prefer to deduce this problem to culture but that doesn't hold up to scrutiny.
Perhaps if we were less concerned about the supposed absurdity of safe spaces and micro-aggressions more black communities (who are often socially conservative) would identify with us. (African Americans and other communities in the Diaspora have their own rich Conservative tradition()s but that's another article for a another day *winks*)
But we're not. We spend more time railing against the "evil left" and have created generation of millennials and youngsters who revel in quoting murder statistics, dismiss genuine concerns about how certain communities are policed and wield anti-black rhetoric that is largely ahistorical and unhelpful.
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 quarrelling 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".
Shadow Legal System
According to Thomas Ab, when poor communities do not receive equal justice, they do what anyone would do - they take justice into their own hands. This has resulted in self-policing in the form of an extralegal system.
"The state's inability to catch and punish even a bare majority of murderers in black enclaves such as Watts was itself a root cause of the violence, and that this was a terrible problem- perhaps the most terrible thing in contemporary American life."
"It’s a huge incentive for retaliation if someone killed your brother and they’re walking around the neighborhood and the police aren’t going to do anything about it. The temptation to retaliate yourself becomes much greater".
"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".
"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".
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 some possible solutions.
Until the ink drops,