LET’S DO BETTER
Despite this community’s efforts to eradicate or at the least diminish the killing of young black males, the senseless violence continues. And, making the violence more heartbreaking, young black males are killing and maiming each other. In addition, to some degree, parents, relatives, friends, mentors and community individuals, groups, and institutions have done their part, in terms of “it takes a village” commitment. Yet, in this community, the murder rate has surpassed 2012 numbers and is at its highest in 15 years. Of course, our city is not alone. These same types of crime are running rampant all over America.
Two weeks ago, a 21-year-old black male was shot and killed. This homicide occurred on the northeast side of Fort Wayne and became the city and county’s 34th homicide in 2013.
In some instances, we try to diminish the racial component of black-on-black crime, with a comparison. Some individuals have said all ethnic groups display crime against their own and the statistics validate these sentiments. For example, Bureau of Justice statistics revealed, from 1976 to 2005, white victims were killed by white defendants 86 percent of the time. Black victims were killed by blacks 94 percent of the time. These percentages are not far apart. However, that’s not the real story. The sad reality is more than half of the nation’s homicide victims are African American and we make up just 13 percent of America’s population. Further, of the black murder victims, 85 percent were men, mostly young black men.
Our community’s black-on-black homicides mirror national averages. In 2012, of the 28 homicides, 19 were young black males. Reportedly, black-on-black homicides account for two-thirds of the homicides in Allen County.
Nationally and locally, despite our best efforts, black-on-black crime is on the increase. The U.S. murder rate, has dropped within the last decade. The Wall Street Journal reported, however, the number of black male victims increased to 5.942 in 2010, from 5,307 in 2000. That’s a 10 percent increase.
Here’s the bottom line: Fort Wayne, as America, has made valiant efforts to stop this killing epidemic. Let’s explore some of the already tried potential solutions.
Community Centers are essentially saturated in center city, promoting wholesome activities, education, mentoring, and rewarding positive behavior. Churches and other organizations have conducted meetings on this issue, and people have attended and offered solutions. Parenting classes and support are provided by social service agencies. Charter and private schools offer an alternative to public education. Secondary schools adopted the “no child left behind” policy. A local “male only” secondary school, already considered part of the solution by experts, opened in our community. The religious community continues to hold prayer vigils. At any given time, young black males can enroll in sports activities of their choice. Local organizations repeatedly bring to our city “youth professionals” who provide methods to reduce our black male crime problem. Training and employment programs have been offered, similar to last week’s plan introduced by entrepreneur John Dortch. Yet, black-on-black crime continues to rise.
David Kennedy, a criminologist at John Jay College in New York, said black violence is increasing and it’s been increasing fastest in medium-size and small cities. That’s bad news for Fort Wayne. District Attorney Hillar Moore said, “sometimes you can guess who is next (to be killed) by who was killed the night before.” Most of us are familiar with “retaliation homicide.” Moore got it right. Thus, research reveals what we already knew.
Maya Angelou said, “When we know better, we do better.” WE KNOW BETTER! We know despite our sincere efforts young black males continue to kill each other. Our endeavors can be equated to the old Negro hymn lyrics, “If when we try and fail in our trying, He’ll understand and say well done.” This is not to say we should stop our services because “well done” means some black males have profited But, it does mean we must recognize our efforts are tiny in the grand scheme. Our approach is like attempting to cut down millions of trees in a forest, with one axe, a tree at a time. We see no progress because new trees become full grown faster than we chop down the old ones.
Our approach must be political, not only locally, but nationally. A new leader must emerge with the ability to mobilize a nation to put pressure on local, state and national government to declare a war on the social, educational, and economic issues that plaque young black males.
While all facets—individuals, groups, corporate, educational systems, and not-for-profits—have a role, the commonwealth must take the lead. While this epidemic might also dictate community policing and targeting known offenders (for citizenry safety), the overall goal must be providing “hope for the hopeless.”
Now that we know better, let’s do better.
Brenda Robinson is an NNPA Emory O. Jackson award-winning columnist for Frost Illustrated.
This article originally appeared in the Oct. 16 print edition.