There should be no be debate regarding whether black lives matter. But in these United States it is a matter of life and death to assert this truth so that black lives do not run the risk of lethal consequences arising out of contact with law enforcement. But there is another side of the Black Lives Matter movement – it is also a matter of life and death to assert this truth so that black lives do not run the risk of being extinguished at the hands of black people – just ask the family of Carey Gabay.
Caray Gabay was a bright and rising star in the New York black community. A graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, Mr. Gabay was a senior member of the executive team of the Governor of the State of New York. And Mr. Gabay died on September 16, 2015, succumbing to a gunshot wound to the head from a gun which was wielded by a member of a black gang fighting with another black gang.
The tragedy of Mr. Gabay’s death is not just that he was a talented, educated and aspiring young man, by all accounts a great person, a great husband and due to be a father for the first time in the next few months. The real tragedy is that his death is part of the black body count in this country, a body count that rises by the guns and knives and assorted weaponry in the hands of black Americans.
The real tragedy is that Mr. Gabay is now a part of the black body count that far exceeds the number of black men and women slain by law enforcement officers. And the real tragedy is that the black body count remains behind a gossamer veil of partial acceptance and perceived inevitability. While the murder of Eric Garner by the New York City Police Department has justifiably elicited marches and protests and rallies, we simply do not see the same outrage when a black person dies at the hands of another black person. Whether the black victim is a Harvard graduate or a high school dropout, the tragedy is unspeakable and the pain for survivors is actually eternal.
Insofar as the grieving survivors of black people killing black people are concerned, a bullet from a gang gun or a thug gun is no different than the bullet from a police gun or a pistol wielded by a white supremacist. For the survivors in communities that too closely resemble charnel houses and abattoirs, the dead are dead and resurrection can only come in the hereafter. But for those who live in the here and now, there can only be inconsolable sadness knowing that for some bizarre breakdown in logic, death by cop elicits outrage and protest, but black on black crime is rationalized and explained in a torrent of socioeconomic and historic contortions, none of which provide answers or anything resembling solace.
It should come as no surprise that most black people are killed by the acts of other black people. Most people are typically killed by their neighbors, family members and the residents of their community. Indeed 93% of murder victims are killed by people with whom they have a racial or ethnic commonality.
But black people kill other black people in greater numbers than any other racial or ethnic community in this country. In 2011 homicide was the leading cause of death of black males between the ages of 15 and 34. Consider that forty percent of African-American males 15-34 who died were murdered, according to the Center for Disease Control, compared to just 3.8 percent of white males who died. But statistics do not reveal the pain and the terror and the heartbreak that lies behind the black body count.
To contend that these enormous death disparities are solely caused by poverty and unemployment and lack of education is to engage in incomplete analysis. It must be recognized that there is a culture of killing, and condoning of homicide (see “no snitches”) and an accommodation of terror that must be overcome.
Lighting candles on the sidewalk after yet another murder is simply not enough. Indeed, marching through the streets with a few banners and posters is not enough. Changing the culture that glorifies gangsters and murder and mayhem in videos, music lyrics, fashion and language will provide the only relief to the shattered and shredded spirits of the widows and orphans and parents.
Changing the culture is a huge task. But it is where we must start if we wish to stop burying our own forever.