Point of View Columns

Do Black Lives Matter?

During the past week a new book, Ghettoside by Jill Leovy, appeared in bookstores across America. Ms. Leovy chronicles the progression of homicide in South Central Los Angeles, but the story that she tells chronicles a national disaster that has been created over the past several decades – a disaster that begs the question, do black lives matter?

The statistics are numbing and serve to anesthetize the sensibilities of the American public in general as well as those of the national black community. But we can try to focus.

• Black Americans comprise approximately 13% of this country’s population.
• African American males make up approximately 6% of the American population.
• African American males comprise 40% of the people murdered in this country.
• Over 90% of African American murder victims are killed by African Americans

While these are numbers that would warm the heart of any member of the Ku Klux Klan, they should be horrifying for any person of good will or decent conscience. The homicidal mayhem being waged against the black community by members of the black community would be considered genocide if the perpetrators were of another hue.

This decimation of the black community must be seen within the larger context of the high levels of incarceration which the black community experiences. Recalling the fact that black Americans make up 13% of the population of the United States, it is stunning to realize that 40% of the prison inmates in this country are of African descent. Further, the overwhelming number of these black inmates are men between the ages of 18 and 34.

It is simply not possible to amputate such a significant part of any community – by murder, mayhem and selective law enforcement – without eviscerating that community and damaging the prospects for that community to be a full partner in the larger society. These are not excuses or rationalizations. These are the facts.

The search for solutions to this seemingly implacable vicious cycle is the only useful and rational response. Better education, more employment opportunities, reformation of the law enforcement and penal systems are certainly important steps on the road to progress.

The marginalization of cultural messages that glorify “thugs” and all their accoutrements is also a necessary strategy. The reality of “Ghettoside” is that it is not only found in Los Angeles, Ghettoside is a part of black American that must be recognized, addressed and eliminated.

Let the first step be recognition of the crisis. The next steps must be born out of creativity meeting innovation meeting imagination.

The future depends on it.

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