Black America’s #1 Civil Rights Issue: Violence

Black America’s #1 Civil Rights Issue: Violence


After another violent weekend in Chicago and a hot summer steaming for cities nationwide, ending the violence in Black America must be the principal civil rights goal of our times.

With each gunshot that is fired off on the mean streets of Chicago, the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans or south central Los Angeles, an emotional – and common sense – salvo for civil rights should be shot into the air as a rallying call for Black America to see.

Regardless of the partisan arguments that incorrectly note that fighting against voter ID laws or fighting for gay marriage rights are the primary focus of this election cycle, the resounding truth rings in the air each time bullets whiz past the innocent and the misguided.

The primary civil rights issue in this election cycle, in this era, and of this generation must be the elimination of the hyper-violent, gun-toting culture that permeates urban communities throughout the nation. Any other issue that acts as a primary focus and subsequently removes attention away from this cancerous trend shifts resources of money, talent, and brain-power needlessly.

Not to say that discriminatory practices inhibiting American citizens from voting should not be addressed.  Nor should gay Americans be forced to hide in the shadows to avoid wrongful slander and harm. Yet, any African-American organization, community group, or religious association that favors political fights on certain social issues over shutting down the bullet-filled battlegrounds of our communities either is missing the point or is hijacking the civil rights mantle while abdicating their historical obligation.

It is easy to merely point the finger at organizations such as the NAACP or others on the “non-partisan left” when making the claim of partisan politics trumping prioritized societal need. Yet, when examining the dynamic truthfully, both sides of the aisle are guilty in some regards, thus leaving a void that many leaders have inconsistently addressed while our communities continue to devolve.

Perhaps, because it is much easier to point fingers at Tea Party racism, both real and imagined, than it is to deal with a drug-addicted teen with a penchant for automatic weapons.

Perhaps, because it is easier to blur some perceptions with some truths over voter ID laws than it is to admit that, somewhere along the line, we have to confront the stronghold of demons within Black America, including classism, overt materialism, substandard parenthood, and substance abuse.

Perhaps, because it is easier to force the issue on the rights of the unborn than it is to force the conservative right-wing to consistently argue the value of human life in urban ghettos.

Addressing important items in the halls of government and media studios has merit, but it also provides safety nets for political players and personalities. Making safer streets the civil rights focus of this era does not afford that same coziness, as being on the wrong end of a filibuster is not the same as being on the business end of an AK-47. With that said, one has to ask: when has pursuing civil rights for Black people in America ever been a safe occupation?

The process of advancing the best interests of colored people cannot be promoted without the issue of civil rights – including the right to life – having a clear focus on eradicating persistent violence in urban America. The violence that crackles the night from Compton to Chicago impacts everything from school safety and education equality to employment opportunities and healthcare considerations.

Civil rights cannot be pursued appropriately without educational, employment, and security foundations. These foundations are necessary for Black people to process societal and political problems and elevate the race (and America overall) with viable solutions. Chasing the trendy, yet vital issues of the day without grasping the primary bipartisan goal within Black America (i.e., giving our communities a chance to live for another day without violence) only highlights the dysfunctional classism, jaded politics, and condoning attitudes that keep us relegated as second-class citizens.

Only a genuine and primary focus on what is utterly most important (even before heeding the important yet oft-dictated partisan rallying points) is going to make the biggest difference in advancing the civil rights push for equality in the 21st century – and perhaps live up to the obligation from centuries past in the process.

LENNY MCALLISTER is a senior contributor to Politic365 featured on CNN Newsroom, CNN’s “Early Start”, and “CNN Saturday Morning”. Catch “The McAllister Minute” on the American Urban Radio Network this week starting Wednesday, June 27. Catch Lenny’s latest via the new website.


    • Gee thanks pal. With all the self inflicted problems we have what's your contribution? This gem of ignorance. Please go back to sleep. Decent Black folk can no longer afford a fool like you.

  1. I can't write or say this too many times: "Black America" doesn't exist.

    There's a 'United States of America' where citizens self-identifying as of African descent are part of the population. As citizens, they're (we're) able to enforce current laws against *criminal* acts against other individuals and groups, i.e.; assault, battery, arson, manslaughter, etc. that constitute violence. Criminal acts differ from civil acts because the former are actions that harm, or threaten to harm, the physical safety of individuals. As such the penalties for criminal law violations are severe, usually resulting in the loss of freedom for a guilty party. It's mainly for this reason why violence isn't a "civil rights issue". Would justice be done for a murder victim, their survivors, or the public at large if the murderer could only be held liable for monetary damages? Of course not.

    Unless you're prepared to argue 'Blacks' are somehow, intrinsically or prenaturnally more violent than other racial/ethnic groups, violence in American communities is best studied as a national phenomenon — one where every American shares some culpability and bears some responsibility for correcting. But I suppose your actual proposition is for 'Blacks' to police crime (esp. in predominantly 'Black' communities) ahead of legitimate civil rights issues, i.e.; voting, free association, etc., as if they're morally equivalent agendas (they aren't) that can't be addressed concurrently (also incorrect). The rhetoric also misrepresents 'Blacks' as a living in a vacuum, free of external cultural, political, economic, etc., forces.

    Violence, like racial discrimination, is a cancer that affects every member of society. Each challenge has a set of solutions unique to it, but both require everyone's vigilance.

    • And I will continue to say that until you can show me how the America that the folks off of Cottage Grove live in and the America that middle class White citizens are the same – from employment, education, crime, wealth, and health – then it is clear that we're talking about very difference existences. The "American Dream", on average, simply doesn't reach these parts of our nation. Where it becomes a civil rights issue is due to its tragic (and growing) ability to impact other issues that are interwoven into the civil rights movement encompassing the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries, including employment and education,

      Further, as the article notes, if organizations such as the NAACP and civil rights leaders stay more fixated on voter ID laws and marriage rights than they are on the issues surrounding violence in the Black community (a.k.a., "Black America"), then the prioritization of the modern-day civil rights agenda remains skewed.

      • You're in no position to demand anything, mostly because your entire premise is nonsensical. African-Americans of today are fully empowered to address violence and other ills that affect our neighborhoods, thanks in large part to the successes of the civil rights movement. However, our rights as American citizens should not be taken for granted, underestimated, or misrepresented as social phenomena. Civil rights are about the proverbial rule of law a nation creates for itself; a manifestation of democracy. Rights require constant vigilance in order to be of any effect.

        It's plainly evident voting rights, due process, the freedom of expression, and privacy are under constant attack from the ideological Right, and should these civil liberties be successfully curtailed, the ability of the "Blacks" you claim to care so much about to self-govern their neighborhoods will cease to exist. That's how Jim Crow worked; the rights of Af-Ams weren't protected resulting in our socioeconomic marginalization. AAMOF, those folks in Chicago you cite will be less able to confront the violence in their neighborhood should their civil liberties be disrupted or limited in some way. It's for this reason today's civil rights activists and organizations are properly focused on the correct agenda: defending our franchise and encouraging its exercise.

  2. While violence is a problem, it is really the result of the greater problem, poverty. Poverty among black people is a result of poor education. So the real civil rights issue is poor education. Black (excuse me, African American) people's true problem is that we identify ourselves a part of the greater American community. We are not. We never will be. We have to recognize ourselves as an independent people. No former slave in the history of the world have successfully integrated themselves into the community of their former slave master. We won't be able to do it either. We have to identify ourselves as an independent people. When we have done that, then we can take control of the education of our children, which will precipitate improvement in every other aspect of life, including the poverty that results in the violence in our communities.

  3. For your information. The number killer of black Americans is abortion. A minimum of 1500 black children are butchered everyday. Everyday! Address that. Of course, you won't! What about this President Obama?

  4. I am still confused why some Americans are called Latin or Asian and some are called black and white. I was born in 1977, and I have never seen a white person. Copier paper is white! Does a black person have to be black, or can they be brown? If they can be brown and still be black, then why not call them brown? someone please explain this to me. it is too confusing