Black-on-Black violence is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. I have been personally frustrated for some time concerning this matter because I feel that we, as a people, are waiting around for someone else to pass a law or install a camera that will end it once and for all. Though they are easier to do, and may even seem like good things to do, the aforementioned suggestions will do little to solve the problem. This piece will explore the problem, the source of the problem, and suggest solutions toward addressing Black-on-Black violence.
Over the last 15 years, the statistics concerning Black-on-Black violence have gotten worse. And in these years, efforts to stop the violence have not worked. Curfews have failed. More police patrolling the streets of high-risk neighborhoods have failed. Metal detectors in the schools have failed. Surveillance cameras, with their flashing blue lights, mounted atop telephone poles have failed.
Despite the fact that these attempts to solve the problem have not worked, our communities are still flooded with police and cameras. Public schools have security guards, surveillance cameras, metal detectors, mandatory student uniforms, and transparent book bags. Every year there is a new idea that supposedly will be the one to stop the violence — but just like the radical ideas from all the other years, they fail.
Two years ago in Chicago, there was an idea to call in the National Guard to help the police stem the rising tide of urban violence. Is the only way to stop violence in Black communities to infringe on the privacy of all community members and intimidate them with a military-like presence?
The truth of the matter is that the aforementioned efforts have not worked and are not the best answers to the violence problem. The surveillance cameras do little to deter or solve crimes, and the police seem to occupy our neighborhoods rather than protect them. These efforts only add to the hostility, tension, and frustration that serve as a spark for much of the violence in the first place. If we really want to prevent the violence, we have to attack the cause. If my shoulder is bleeding, a Band-Aid on my forearm will not help. Neither will a Band-Aid on my hand or leg. But that is what seems to be happening in the case of violence in our communities. Much of the attention to curb violence has been misdirected and does not address the source of the problem.
Not long ago, I picked up a used social psychology textbook. After reading the first chapter, I was reminded that violent behavior has long been a topic of interest among scholars. The various theories that have been tested over the years have revealed that the problem of violence is not one of inherent delinquency. What follows is a short excerpt from the textbook. As you read, consider the solutions being offered up by today’s politicians and so-called experts. Do blue-light cameras, more policemen, metal detectors, etc. address what this book identifies as the source of the problem?
“… frustrating situations make people angry and increase their tendency to act aggressively. This is called the frustration-aggression hypothesis. It predicts that when people are blocked from achieving a desired goal, they feel frustrated and angry and are more likely to lash out…. The frustration-aggression hypothesis can also explain how large-scale economic and societal factors CREATE [emphasis mine] situations that lead to violence and crime. For instance, people who are poor and crowded into urban slums are frustrated. They cannot get good jobs, find affordable housing, provide a safe environment for their children, and so on. This frustration may produce anger, which can be the direct cause of violent crime” (Social Psychology, Prentice Hall, Eleventh Edition, 2006).
In our cities, people often commit crimes because they are frustrated, because they are poor, because they feel there’s no other option. People do not commit crimes, violent or non-violent, based on the absence of a surveillance camera or law-enforcement officer. People don’t steal because they want to be cool. People don’t join gangs because they don’t have a family. People don’t sell drugs to pass the time. People do these things because they’re hungry — both physically and spiritually. They do these things because they’re poor, because their angry, because they’re afraid.
This vantage point is important because, as I said before, if you don’t address the right source of the problem you will never arrive at the right solution to the problem.
To be honest, I am no longer convinced that the attempts of the government are well thought out or even submitted with the expectation to truly solve the problem. More often than not, the “solutions” are offered as quick fixes to keep voters placated or to keep certain public officials gainfully employed.
So, what do we do now? What can we do to rebuild, strengthen, and protect our own communities?
We have to do something. We cannot let news reports cause us to feel overwhelmed and powerless. We cannot push aside our responsibility to the youth in our community because we think someone in a high place is working on a solution. We have to do something. Here are a few suggestions for actions we can take ourselves:
1. We must seek help from higher sources. Seeking wisdom through faithful and consistent spiritual practices help to discipline people and to provide them with a healthy outlet for venting frustration. Additionally, many problems are spiritual in nature. Everything that happens on the visible (physical) plane was birthed on an invisible (mental, emotional, spiritual) plane. We must ask ourselves and the Most High God/ Creator of universes known and unknown to reveal what needs to be addressed in higher spheres so that we can see a shift in the material sphere where we perceive reality.
2. We must educate ourselves. We cannot respond to our problems with frustration. We must learn more than what the media is telling us about these problems. We must also learn our history so we can see what methods were effective under similar circumstances in the past. We can use this knowledge to think creatively about how to address current and, in many cases, worsening conditions.
3. We must downsize. We cannot get sidetracked by American consumerism, teaching our children and younger people to purchase expensive materials and possessions to the point of going into debt, or robbing and killing to get what they want.
4. We must respect each other. Unity and community are not a thing of the past. In fact, African Americans coined the phrase “unity in the community.” We have to make a concerted effort to instill in our youth (whether we know them personally or not) that there is certain behavior that is unacceptable — and that killing your brother or sister is an extreme example of this unacceptable behavior.
5. We must fight poverty and we must fight any system that allows poverty. This is one of the chief causes of crime and violence. We cannot passively accept, or participate in, unjust economic systems that thrive on keeping a certain segment of society below the poverty line.
6. We must focus on better parenting. Many of our youth have little to no idea of what is right vs. wrong because they do not have responsible adults guiding them. As younger children they are taught that mischievous behavior is “cute” or worthy of being overlooked or handled lightly. This only perpetuates the misbehavior and adversely affects the structures/rules set by schools and greater society. This inevitably leads to trouble and the aforementioned frustration. We must learn to reprimand our children fairly and effectively and not be “scared” of DCFS or police intervention for being an active parent. Remember who the adult is and who the child is.
7. We must stop making excuses. The fact that we have multiple jobs, or work at night or on the weekends, does not exonerate us from being active parents to our children. In fact, it requires us to work even harder to be present and involved with our youth. The connection to our children, now more than ever, is of grand importance.
School is starting. Let’s pray that it’s a safe and positive one for our youth. And let each of us ask ourselves: Will I be a part of the solution or the problem?
An earlier version of this post appeared on UrbanFaith.com.
The story has become an American classic. We’ve heard variations of it before.
The 250 pound 28 year old claims he was defending himself against a 140 pound 17 year old carrying skittles and a can of iced tea.
Police cannot find evidence to suggest that the white man is lying—even though everybody else sees it.
Lawyers busy themselves preparing arguments.
Black parents claim racism.
Protests and press conferences are held where irrelevant Black leaders parade in front of cameras.
Black people leave justice in the hands of the authorities.
Black people stay in their rut.
Regardless of what happens regarding the arrest and conviction of the murderer or whether or not the Department of Justice, FBI, or FDLE find anything in their investigations, if Black people continue leaving justice in the hands of so-called authorities, Black people will remain in defenseless and powerless positions—crying over injustice and complaining about unpunished racism in the 21st century.
Are we destined to remain in such anemic positions?
What, if anything, can we do about this?
How should we respond to this?
- Should we fight to introduce a law into congress that makes it illegal for a white man to murder a black boy ?
- Should we fight to make sure already existing laws are enforced?
- Should we assemble to express our disappointment with the silent local police?
- Should we make a sign with a MLK quote about justice and injustice?
- Should we write a blog expressing our disappointments and how this is incident is reminiscent to Emmitt Till’s murder in 1955?
- Should demand that Barack Obama or other political figures call for the
arrest of Zimmerman and not vote for them if they don’t respond to our demands in a way that is sincere?
I’m running out of ideas… I honestly don’t think any of these ideas will do anything to address the heart of problem of Trayvon’s murder. And I hope I’m not alone. Malcolm X’s words ring clearer to me, now more than ever: that the government is either unable or unwilling to address the problems that confront Black people in a satisfactory way. The most natural response seems to be self-evident : address the problems ourselves–but that is not what’s happening. smh.
“I for one believe that if you give people a thorough understanding of what confronts them and the basic causes that produce it, they’ll create their own program, and when the people create a program, you get action.” –Malcolm X
We know the problems. We’re affected by them every day. Let’s create some solutions. Here are a few of mine:
1. We should recognize our power and use it:
- Power concedes to nothing but power. White power is dominating us because Black power has not responded in a way to nullify or overpower white power.
- Black people have power. Always have and always will. Unfortunately, because we don’t know how to use it, we are misusing it. We have fallen into the trap of misdirecting our energies to kill each other in service of white domination (part of the plan of white power).
- If our power is redirected in ways that will help us get out of our current social, political, economic, and spiritual rut, we WILL succeed.
- We must want “freedom, justice, and equality” so badly that we will seek to obtain them using any means necessary.
- We must reject any and everything that is thrown at us to stifle our attempts to empower ourselves to lift ourselves. We cannot limit ourselves by dismissing ideas for Black elevation because they may not be the ways that we have historically fought.
- Let’s fight the fight and let the chips fall where they may.
2. We must redefine independence.
- Independence and freedom are often used interchangeably. As a result, people may erroneously conclude that we (as a people) are independent.
- Consider independence as NOT dependent and slavery as being dependent.
- Are we (as a people) independent?
- When the government provides assistance to “underprivileged” (namely Black) people, it creates a level of dependence that is paralyzing. We are very dependent on the very systems and structures that are failing us.
- Let’s stop putting our trust in people or systems that have not helped us in the recent and distant pasts.
- Let’s be intentionally about becoming self-determining and self-reliant. We must get to the place where we are not dependent on structures and systems that have been put in place by our former oppressors to do for us what we should do for ourselves.
- Understand that our formal education is one of the most important instruments used to keep us in the mentality that keeps us working in the interest of white domination and against the interest of ourselves and our children.
- We have been educated/conditioned to respond to situations in ineffective ways.
- When is it acceptable for children of former slaves to be educated by children of former slave masters? Have things change that much to where one thinks whites will teach blacks how to beat them at the game they’re playing?
- Recall the 5th point in the Black Panther Party’s Ten-Point Program: We should want an education for our people that exposes the true nature of this decadent American society. We should strive for an education that teaches our true history and our role in the present society. “We believe in an educational system that will give to our people a knowledge of self. If a man does not have knowledge of himself and his position in society and the world, then he has little chance to relate to anything else.”
- Reeducate yourself on the importance of Nationhood. (Marcus Garvey, Elijah Muhammad , John Henrik Clark, and a host of others talk about it in their books and recordings). Land, food, and shelter are very important in this equation.
4. We must separate.
- When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected with another… Language from The Declaration of Independence, one of the founding documents of America. It made sense for them then and makes sense for us now. It’s time for us to get out of the mindset that this system will do right by us. It has not, it is not, and if history proves to be a good teacher, will not.
- Put little faith in the American system/ government/ way of life. Begin to devalue the structures that we have accepted as indisputable and unchangeable. This is the first step in independence.
- Lose respect for the laws—Since they do nothing to protect us, we should have no obligation to respect them.
5. Stop being so damn afraid.
- Fear paralyzes. It will prevent an individual from reaching a goal and a race.
- Remove all notions of fear and doubt.
- Be lead by the Spirits. We have more help than we realize.
- Fight the fight. Let the chips fall where they may.