This Is Not Us!
What Black people (who care) must do to combat gun violence in the Black community.
On Wednesday, August 25, 2021 Tyshaun Hargrove was shot and killed in New Haven, Connecticut. He was 14 years old. He was Black and if the truth be told it wouldn’t surprise most (including this writer) if it turns out that his killer is Black. As of this writing no arrests have been made.
According to the Children’s Defense Fund — in 2019 Black children and teens made up only 14 percent of all children and teens in the U.S. yet accounted for 43 percent of child and teen gun deaths. There’s more. Black children and teens were four times more likely to be killed with guns than their white peers and Black boys were 18 times more likely to be killed in gun homicides than white boys.
According to the research, in urban centers across this country homicide rates are nearly 20 times the national average. Black men and boys who make up less than 7 percent of the U.S. population account for 63 percent of all homicide victims. And over the last few years 72 percent of children murdered before their 18th birthday were people of color, and 50 percent were Black.
If we are to stop the bloody carnage resulting from gun violence in the Black community then Black people must acknowledge several harsh, yet fundamental truths. The first being — many in the dominant culture and their “white-adjacent” allies are at best indifferent as it concerns the general welfare of Black people. I’m even certain more than a few applaud the current internal slaughter in Black communities for their own nefarious reasons.
Notwithstanding the glee amid this fiendish horde or even considering the noble efforts by empathetic policymakers and sincere law enforcement officials to combat this phenomenon, the truth is, a large chunk of the burden undoubtedly falls on the shoulders of the Black community. Namely, adult Black males.
One of the Five Principles of the Kiyama Movement — a movement dedicated to self-improvement — is Commitment to Fatherhood. It reads:
“Children need both parents. Black men must choose to be involved in the lives of their children. This involvement must extend beyond an occasional gift or check in the mail. Our children need to see us. Spending quality time with our children must be a priority in our personal lives.
There is no definitive book that explains how to be a perfect father but one can be a caring, visible and responsible dad simply by trying.”
The absence of caring, visible and responsible dads has levied a crippling blow on Black communities across the spectrum. While structural racism (read Richard Rothstein’s The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America; Douglas Blackmon’s Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II and Michelle Alexander’s — The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness) has unquestionably played a significant role in the under-development of the Black family, Black men must find the strength and rise to the challenge. The alternative leaves us no choice. It won’t be easy but it must be done.
Another driving force second only to “absent” fathers is the less talked about and often ignored issue of self-hatred. Simply stated, Black people in this society have been socialized to hate ourselves. The powerful combination of movies produced by Hollywood, rooted in white supremacy and an educational system that historically perpetuated the same, has led members of the dominant culture to develop a false sense of superiority and for Blacks — a false sense of inferiority.
One of the ways in which self-hatred is manifested is the Black fratricide presently on display in Black communities across the country. The late, great poet Maya Angelou sums it up in an excerpt from her essay I Dare to Hope:
“In these bloody days and frightful nights when an urban warrior can find no face more despicable than his own, no ammunition more deadly than self-hate and no target more deserving of his true aim than his brother, we must wonder how we came so late and lonely to this place”
One of the more misleading aspects regarding gun violence in the Black community concerns the partakers in the disorder. The notion that the contributors to the violence are considerable in size and scope is flat out wrong and only reinforces the racist trope that Black people are violent by nature. Dispelling this notion is critical in combatting the problem.
While most young Black males are raised by single mothers encumbered with a myriad of socio-economic issues, to say nothing of the stress of being a Black woman in American society, it is a fallacy to believe that the vast majority of Black children reared under such circumstances become participants in senseless acts of violence. This is a perilous leap. In doing so we criminalize an entire community, particularly Black males. Equally alarming we allow a small dangerous element — the real “troublemakers” — to take cover within the community at large.
Exposing and targeting the latter must be a major priority. We simply cannot create safe havens in the midst of chaos. Those individuals who are identified by local law enforcement with the assistance of local school officials and quasi-governmental agencies whose primary mission is violence prevention and/or intervention, must be neutralized (i.e. restricted in their movement).
Municipal leaders cannot be hesitant in using the power of the state to round up this small group of “bad” guys. Many municipalities, including New Haven, take civil action against those who are accused of abusing animals. They drag the accused into civil court and present the evidence of their abuse. In most cases, a criminal action is filed simultaneously.
Why not take civil action against those who are known troublemakers? Why not bring an action against an individual who has proven to have a propensity for violence? Why not use evidence from social media; intelligence gathered by the police and any other useful information to bring a compelling case that would enjoin that person from leaving his/her home unless there is a valid reason (i.e. employment, church, medical) to do so?
Civil injunctions are not criminal in nature but can lead to criminal consequences in the same way that a civil restraining order can lead to such consequences if violated. Civil injunctions, in most circumstances, have been found to be constitutional and quite effective in small cities and towns.
Those who are targeted by a civil injunction have the right to appear in court and present evidence as to why they should not be confined to their home or restricted in their movement. Even if the person is given a reprieve and not deemed a “pariah” by the court at least he/she has been identified and now recognizes that the community is serious about the safety of the residents therein and will go to great lengths to rid itself of those who seek to bring ruin upon it. The idea is to make those wedded to violence live in fear of law abiding citizens — not vice versa.
While these measures are hard-hitting and admittedly can invite potential abuse, the reward — keeping our children alive, far outweigh the risks associated with misapplication. These are the tough choices we have to make as a community.
Over the last 60 years America has witnessed two powerful, Black led movements that have helped to change the American landscape. The Civil Rights Movement and Black Lives Matter targeted state sponsored injustice. They were right to do so and America is better because of both. Notwithstanding the critics, haters and naysayers.
What we have not seen and is well overdue, is a Black led mass movement organized to confront the small, yet lethal criminal element in our communities. In short, Black lives have to matter to us too. An integral part of this movement must focus on teaching our children the history of violence against Black people in this country. For starters, consider slavery and its aftermath as well as the Jim Crow era.
Black children must understand that Blacks today who choose to engage in senseless acts of violence in their own community are merely replicating the role of terrorist outfits like the Ku Klux Klan, neo Nazis, etc. It is also vital that we teach our children the violence plaguing our community is not part of our history. It is in fact a recent phenomenon, enabled by absent fathers, rooted in self-hatred and propelled by the proliferation of weapons that are not produced in our community. These are the primary factors.
Building a movement to rid our communities of their most lethal elements will require us to be honest in our analysis, creative in our response and daring in our deeds. Above all else, our message must be resounding — this is not us!