In a previous article, I said young Black writers and activists mythologized revolution due to a misguided belief that the civil rights movement was a failure. These young Black writers and activists also argue that Black-on-Black crime is a myth. The famous exchange between Baltimore native Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of Between the World and Me, and New Orleans Mayor, Mitch Landrieu, at the 2015 Aspen Institute Idea’s Festival, demonstrates their argument.
Coates said, in response to Landrieu’s opening statement about a culture of violence in the inner cities, “A culture of violence has been put upon us, 250 years of slavery, 150 years of Jim Crow, which is violence …We redlined to herd certain people into certain communities, we deprived them of resources and jobs, and then we’re shocked the murder rate is high. Why are you shocked? It’s to be expected.” Then Coates said, “I object to the phrase Black on Black crime. I object to it because people kill who they live around—period…And when we use the phrase Black on Black crime, we ignore the fact that the conditions Black people live in did not happen by accident.”
Landrieu replied, “While it’s true White people and Black people kill, when you focus on the killer, but when you focus on the victims, young Black men are 40 to 50 percent of the victims.” (Blacks are 14.5 percent of the population) Then Landrieu stated racial disparities are discussed in every other facet of African American life, but the victims of violent crime are disproportionately African American… “In my view Baltimore and Ferguson were about whether the criminal justice system treated African Americans equally and, consequently, as valuable as White lives, but I’m talking about existence. No one is really talking about the deaths of African American men in the streets of America.”
Coates replied it was false African American’s don’t march or speak out against violence in their communities. Then Coates said two misguided things, the first was an emotional/economic justification for more outrage over police shootings than Black on Black homicides, and the second, removes all responsibility from African Americans.
1). There is a certain feeling you get when a random criminal in your neighborhood perpetrates a crime, and there’s a very, very, different feeling you get when someone you pay taxes to, to protect you, commits a crime.
2). The solution was to create policies that destroy White supremacy.
Now, there was a Black teenager from Baltimore that got into some trouble and wanted to turn his life around. His name was DaVonte Friedman. DaVonte joined Baltimore’s CLIA (Community Law in Action) Summer Leadership Institute. CLIA’s mission is to help develop young people to be leaders and to advance positive community change through public policy. There was a question on the CLIA application that asked: What is your definition of a leader?
DaVonte answered: In my experience, leadership is about three things:
(1) To listen (2) To inspire (3) To empower, DaVonte continued, “Over the years I’ve tried to do a much better job of listening actively, making sure I really understand the other person’s point of view, learning from them and using that basis of trust and collaboration to inspire and empower.” Then DaVonte gave a presentation at Baltimore’s city council to promote anti-gun initiatives and to increase youth job opportunities.
On Nov. 26, DaVonte turned 18 but on Dec. 1, he was shot and killed.
Baltimore City Councilman Zeke Cohen said, “There can’t be other DaVontes. This violence has to end. DaVonte had a bright future ahead of him. He was accepted into several colleges. As a student leader with CLIA DaVonte talked about the BMORE Invested Campaign: A youth led effort to expand YouthWorks to reduce violence in Baltimore.” Cohen plans to introduce a resolution in support of a year-round jobs program in DaVonte’s memory.
But According to Coates the Councilman should be introducing a resolution to destroy White supremacy because people kill who they live around—period.
So, murder’s like DaVonte’s are to be expected.
(J. Pharaoh Doss is a contributor to the New Pittsburgh Courier.)
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