Point of View Columns

Black Lives Matter – The Other Side of the Coin

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.

Point of View Columns

Slipping Into Darkness

The swirl of the endless news cycles takes on an almost kaleidoscopic effect as we endeavor to make sense out of events and statements that simply make no sense. Is it true that Donald Trump, who became a parody of himself years ago, could be considered by some to be a serious candidate for President? Apparently the answer is a nerve jangling “yes”.

The Center for Disease Control reports that on an annual basis 76 million Americans will be sickened by food that they eat, 300,000 will be hospitalized and 5000 will die. Yet, one of the results of the budget “compromise” of a few weeks ago was that $10 million that funds food inspection will be cut from the federal budget. Clearly no sense is making sense in this parallel universe in which we find ourselves.

However, if we take a moment to consider the import and meaning of this constant flow of information we find that we have a right to feel unsettled and unbalanced. There are powerful political forces at work in this country, some marching under the banner of the G.O.Tea Party, but not all of them.

These forces are determined to carve, pare and eviscerate local, state and federal governments so that they will be able to provide only the most basic services – defense, fire and police protection and a bare modicum of education.

Expenditures on the aspects of government that define a society – healthcare, comprehensive education, social services for those in need, infrastructure, protection of the environment, preservation and support of culture and the arts – all would be severely reduced, privatized or eliminated in the brave new world proclaimed by too many already. And too often the response from centrists, progressives and the left wing of the left wing is garbled and muted at best.

The entire notion that those with wealth and privilege also have a responsibility to the greater society has been turned on its ear. Too many of the wealthy and the privileged have found their voices and their reason for being – to preserve and safeguard their wealth and privileges from the grasping and shameless hands of the poor and needy and the government that supports them.

The fact that large corporations now hire hundreds and spend millions in order to find a way to avoid paying taxes is public knowledge.
If we take a moment to ask where all of this is leading, we may not like the answer.

The fact is that this country is prepared to spend blood and treasure on an endless series of endless wars with no direct relationship to the security or safety of its citizens. Yet this same country is not prepared to invest the billions of needed dollars for education, infrastructure, environmental protection and the development of alternative energy strategies.

This stampede towards stupidity is not without consequence. This country is growing poorer and weaker and less educated and less healthy by the moment. The neglect and consequent decay of the infrastructure is ignored at great risk to future generations that the G.O.Tea Party claims to revere by reducing the budget deficit.

And I wonder how future generations will feel about receiving a bequest of antiquated railroads and airports, leaking water and sewage systems, inadequate energy supplies, collapsing highways and wretched schools.

Historians will look back on this time and wonder how it could be possible that over 300 million could collectively embraces policies that contained the seeds of their downfall. Multiple wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and now Libya with no funds for schools, bridges, airports, education or healthcare seems like a recipe for domestic disaster. And it is.

As citizens in this country we have a right to consider the entire spectrum of political thought and philosophy. However, as citizens of this country we also have the right to speak out against cruelly cynical and selfish philosophies that will eliminate even the glimmer of the promise of hope for current and future generations if they are fully implemented. And even as you read this column this edifice of idiocy is being constructed brick by stupid brick.

Slogans and sound bites have replaced serious thought. Skill at marketing ideas seems to triumph over logic and basic principles of self-preservation.

It is never too late until it is too late and it is getting late early.