But while the demonstrations are justified and have been mostly peaceful, some community leaders and social experts are concerned that the emotional response to Zimmerman’s acquittal is overshadowing a problem as deep, if not deeper than the perceived racial hatred that murdered Trayvon Martin.
That problem is the never ending violence that young Black males inflict against each other virtually every day across America. From coast to coast, in New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Detroit and Chicago, Black America is murdering itself over drug turf, bruised egos, minor altercations and petty insults.
Over the July 4 weekend in Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods, 72 people were shot, 12 of them fatally. In Philadelphia from July 12 to July 15, 10 people were murdered and in almost all cases, in both cities, the victims were Black and Hispanic males, many of them between the ages of 17 and 34.
It’s an ongoing urban war of senseless violence that plays itself out in every major city in America and one that, experts agree, outdistances even the racial violence the Ku Klux Klan committed against Black Americans at its height.
But the answer to the question of where is the outrage over Black on Black violence may be as simple as the fact that the national media is ignoring it.
“I think we really have to understand exactly what it is we’re talking about here,” said Chad Dion Lassiter, president and co-founder of Black Men at Penn. “I think that there has been a lot of outrage over the senseless violence, otherwise you wouldn’t have groups like the Father’s Day Rally Committee or Men United for a Better Philadelphia, or Mothers in Charge or Black Men at Penn, or any number of anti-violence organizations. The media just prefers not to touch it. The demonstrations over the Zimmerman verdict are sexy and have all the trappings of a good story. There’s a lot of emotion there and the media elites promote the narrative. People are outraged, it’s just not being covered — certainly not on the national level.”
The statistics of the high homicide rates in Black communities are well-publicized and it’s well known that Black males, specifically young Black males, are at a high risk of dying by gun violence. According to two reports produced by the Violence Policy Center, in 2009 and 2010 Pennsylvania was third and second in the nation respectively in the number of African Americans murdered.
In 2009, 388 Blacks were murdered in Pennsylvania — 302 of them in Philadelphia. In 2010, 419 Blacks were murdered in Pennsylvania — 306 in Philadelphia.
“When it comes to Black and Latino males gunning each other down, I can tell you that both Republicans and Democrats are mostly silent on the issue,” said Bilal Qayyum, executive director of the Father’s Day Rally Committee. “When it comes down to it, it is an American problem, not a Black American problem. I’d bet that if you took a national poll and asked the average American what were their two biggest concerns, the first would be jobs and the second would be crime.”
A statistical analysis by the Philadelphia Police Department for the years 2007 to 2010 showed that the majority of murder victims in 2010 were African Americans at 79.1 percent while white victims were just 19.6 percent. The report goes on to state that African American represent the overwhelming majority of the 1,332 murder victims in Philadelphia during the four years analyzed. African American males constituted the majority of the murder victims — 945 or 70.9 percent for the four years analyzed and 743 or 55.8 percent were between the ages of 18 to 34.
The self-inflicted genocide taking place in the African-American communities didn’t happen overnight, social experts say, and many of the factors contributing to it weren’t spawned in the Black community. Systemic racism, government apathy, the poor quality of education in many predominantly Black public schools and the loss of living wage jobs have all played a part in creating the ongoing bloodshed.
“I’m not surprised there’s no real discussion on the issue of Black and Latino males murdering each other, because we’re talking about a segment of the population that’s not part of the landscape,” Lassiter said. “These young men are seen as a permanent underclass, as sub-human and ostracized from society. To raise these issues means you have to talk about institutional racism and the white supremacy that spawned it, the high incarceration and drop-out rates. When it comes to this kind of violence there isn’t a real effort on the part of the power elite to address it. Poverty is a ‘no-no’ and Black male violence is a ‘no-no.’ I want to have the conversation about Black on Black violence, but we can’t have it without also addressing the white supremacy that created the conditions that cause it. It’s set up for you to hate yourself and to kill yourself.”
Author Elijah Anderson, the William K. Lanman Jr. Professor of Sociology at Yale University, draws a finer distinction in terms of what drives the violence in Black communities and also the subconscious perceptions that led to Trayvon Martin’s death.
In his latest book, “The Cosmopolitan Canopy: Race and Civility in Everyday Life,” Anderson talks about what he terms as the “iconic ghetto” and the media perception that Trayvon Martin is the new Emmett Till. Anderson said that the virulent ideology of white racial superiority was the cause behind the murder of Emmett Till. A different kind of racism was the perception that ultimately led to Trayvon Martin’s murder.
Both perceptions, he said, are born of America’s painful legacy of slavery and segregation and reflects the urban iconography of today’s racial inequality, namely the Black ghetto, a uniquely urban American creation.
Anderson said that the physical Black ghetto and its iconography is what whites and others often associate Black individuals with; burdening them with a deficit of credibility that on occasion manifests in acts of acute disrespect reminiscent of America’s racial past.
“The demonstrations are, of course, the product of decades of tremendous frustration and anger and certainly the death of Trayvon Martin is a water-shed moment. But I think a lot of people are missing the point,” Anderson said. “The Black ghetto has become a major icon in American society and culture, and as such, it serves as an important source of stereotype, prejudice, and discrimination. Because of this, Blacks operate under a deficit of credibility. The media is also caught up in this Black deficit of credibility. For example, let’s say a young white woman is being followed by an unknown Black man. There’s a confrontation and she’s getting the better of him and he pulls out a gun and shoots and kills her. No matter what he says or the witness saw, you can be certain he’s going to prison no matter the justification. George Zimmerman had what I call a ‘n——- moment’ a moment of acute disrespect. He saw a young Black man, wearing a hoodie who, in his perception, didn’t belong in his community. Trayvon was under the deficit of credibility. White racism killed Emmett Till, whereas the iconic ghetto killed Trayvon.”