By A. Peter Bailey
Since the 1970s, we Black folks have resolutely refused to organize a national unity movement to promote and protect our cultural, economic, political, educational, health and legal interest in what is still basically a White supremacist/racist country. One of the most significant and very harmful results of our refusal is the much too high rate of homicides in too many urban areas throughout the country. The following four points are suggestions on how we can at least begin to deal with the extremely negative situation.
Point number one requires us to diagnose things accurately, which is that the overwhelming majority of the killings involve low-income Black males killing other low-income Black males. If they were killing Whites of any income or social class at that rate, they would be stopped by the authorities by any means necessary.
If they were killing male members from Black middle and upper income families they would be stopped. If the authorities didn’t stop them, middle and upper income Black folks would create a way to stop them. Low income Black males should be told, “You’re being allowed to kill each other and most people in this country don’t give a damn. In fact most of them probably say ‘good riddance.’”
Which brings me to the second point. Those low income Black males should be made aware that by doing what you are doing—wreaking havoc in your own neighborhoods – you have, for all practical purposes, become allies of those forces out to do us harm. I wouldn’t be surprised that when reading the monthly homicide statistics in places like Chicago, New Orleans and other urban centers, many Whites don’t slap fives and have parties celebrating the loss of so many Black lives taken by other Black people.
Point number three is that if the injustices of the system play a pivotal role in low income Black males killing each other at the rate they are doing then they should be told to direct their rage at those who control the system or at least look like those who control the system.
Finally, point number four is that we as a people must do much more than we are doing to guide and nourish our young people. As a group we have sufficient resources to set up a space where young people can do what young people, especially teenagers, are doing and always will do, which is hang out. Every major urban neighborhood should/must have a space where youngsters can relax, learn and grow under loving and nurturing adult supervision. Collectively, we have the resources to create such places. What’s lacking is the will and the vision. We are now paying a steep price for not having both during the last 40 years.
The space doesn’t have to be lavish, just a safe comfortable space where they can socialize, be made cognizant of their worth to the community and taught marketable skills needed to take care of themselves, their families and their neighborhoods.
A. Peter Bailey, whose latest book is Witnessing Brother Malcolm X, the Master Teacher, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.