By The Bakersfield Californian
This is not intended to demonize young black men. My purpose is to help stop the carnage in black communities across America, to begin the process of rebuilding these communities and to re-engineer the lives of young black men. Many young black men feel angry and are desperate because black communities and America have failed them. While some of this hopelessness is understandable because of their extreme negative circumstances, it does not give any young black men the right to hurt others.
Let's begin with a controversial question: Are young black men doing the work of the Ku Klux Klan as the primary killers of black people in America? Without much debate, the answer is yes. Although the impetus for black-on-black destruction differs from the Klan's motivation, the results are arguably more horrific. Judging strictly by the numbers, the Klan was never as efficient as young black men are today at killing black people. According to a study from the Tuskegee Institute, the Ku Klux Klan killed 3,446 black people in America during an 86-year span. Compare that with black men who kill about this same number of black people every six months.
Even cities like Bakersfield, with relatively small black populations, have seen black-on-black violence that is disproportionate to the volume of violent crime affecting most other races. Two weeks ago, for example, Erran Lane West was arraigned on two counts of murder and other felony charges in the killings of Levon Vines and Ernestine Trejo.
Statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice clearly show the magnitude of this tragedy on U.S. soil, especially when compared with war-related data during a nine-year period from 2001 through 2010. In two U.S. wars, 6,754 American soldiers were killed (including 2,019 soldiers in Afghanistan since 2001 and 4,735 soldiers in Iraq since 2003). Statistics show that more than 7,000 black people are murdered in this country every year. During the nine years the U.S. has been at war overseas, about 67,000 black people were murdered in the United States.
Most of these homicides were committed by black men, primarily men in the 17-to-44 age range, against other black men in that same age group. Black men comprise about 6.5 percent of the U.S. population and nearly half of U.S. homicide victims.
Today, the black community faces a serious irony. Little more than 50 years ago, black communities wanted black men to protect them from white men who wore "hoods" while they killed black people and destroyed their property. Fifty years later, black communities are asking local (mostly white) police departments and state National Guard units to protect them from our sons and neighbors: mostly young black men, often in "hoodies" and ski masks, who are killing black people and destroying their property.
Whether perpetrated by the Ku Klux Klan or by young black men, this terrorism is decimating black communities. Opportunities for positive community development and growth are smothered when young black men murder other young black men and inadvertently maim and kill other innocent people in these communities. Children are afraid to travel to and from school; middle-income blacks refuse to reside in high-crime communities; business owners steer clear of inner-city areas; and senior citizens become easy prey. Black communities become paralyzed and implode under the weight of black-on-black crime, violence and murder.
Five strategies, outlined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, seem to offer the best approach to reduce youth violence and produce long-term, lasting, positive results. These recommended strategies include:
Build strong families and communities and employ responsible parents as the chief agents to reduce youth violence.
Teach young children ways to resolve conflict peacefully.
Provide mentors to serve as guides and role models for positive youth behavior.
Reduce factors, both social and economic, that cause violence in young people's environments.
Ensure training, spiritual or character-based, for young children and reinforce that training through their early teen years.
Where is the official U.S. government's response to 67,000 black American citizens slaughtered in its streets during the past nine years? Implementing solutions that effectively address this reign of death in the black community will not and should not come primarily from Washington, state capitals or city halls. While it is the black community that must strongly respond with effective solutions and actions, government still has a crucial responsibility to support structural remedies to this genocide. So far, local, state and federal governments alike have answered with a "calculated nonresponse" to the national carnage and human catastrophe of this black-on-black murder. This same calculated nonresponse was the position taken by all levels of government during the reign of terror by the Ku Klux Klan.
More than 145 years after the Klan's founding, only the killers have changed -- not the killing, not the victims and not the poor response from government. Are young black men doing the work of the Ku Klux Klan? They are doing it better than the Klan. And the world is watching.
Phillip Jackson is the founder and executive director of The Black Star Project, an organization committed to improving the quality of life in black and Latino communities of Chicago and nationwide by eliminating the racial academic achievement gap.