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Hello. Come on in. The daddy writes about current events, literature, music and, once in a while, drops something on you from back in the day to make you pause and ponder, stop and stare, and begin to wonder. Who knows? You may start to pace the floor, shake your head from side to side, then fall down on bended knees in a praying position and cry, "Lawd, have mercy! What is this world coming to?" Check yourself! But this blog is NOT about the daddy. It's about you: your boos, your fam, your hood, your country...our hopes and dreams of a better tomorrow. So let's make a pact: the daddy will put it on the track if you'll chase it down and hit him back. Together, we can definitely take it to another level. Shall we?"

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Black violence, a "spiritual sickness"

"Murder is the acid test of dislike. Black people pass with flying colors. Black people will kill each other rather quickly, and over the most simple things. The things are so inconsequential to a life that you know black people aren't really killing themselves over these things. They're killing themselves because they don't like each other."
-- Ralph Wiley in his 1991 essay "Who Black People Don't Like."

Listen up. The daddy hates to do this. He knows that times are tough, but you're feeling good
about 2009. You got a brotha in the White House and Prez "00 Soul" has a plan to finally put the money in the hands of regular folk instead of rich, salon-going bankers. It's all good. But, with the help of Ebony Report (http://ebonyreport.blogspot.com/), the daddy came across an article by Jarvis Deberry in the Times-Picayune that he could not ignore. It's about black violence, especially black male youth violence.

The brotha breaks it down. He talks not only about how we, as a society, devalues this group. He also talks about how members of this group devalues themselves, which is why
they kill themselves: self-hate. And he tells the story of one man's effort to shed light on this violence, to start a movement to do something about it. Check it out:

The Rev. John Raphael of New Hope Baptist Church fasts and
prays at Martin Luther King Boulevard and Claiborne Avenue in
New Orleans, trying to get people to think about violence in the city.
Other church members, including Roberto Julia Blanco, right,
joined him and kept watch while he slept.

Acclaimed sportswriter and cultural critic Ralph Wiley died in 2004, but I'm guessing a report released this week by a criminal justice professor at Northeastern University wouldn't have surprised him. According to the report, the nation's murder rate among black teenagers has been climbing since 2000 as the murder rate among white teenagers has stayed about the same.

The 1,142 murders black teenagers committed in 2007 was up 34 percent from the 851 murders black teenagers committed in 2000. The number of murders committed by white teenagers during that same period increased 1.5 percent, from 539 to 547. This, as the nation's overall murder rate has held steady or gone down.

The New York Times story discussing professor James Alan Fox's report quoted a sociologist who wondered about the effects of a worsening economy and spending cuts on crime control. The story also gave space to conservative criminologists who attribute the rise to dysfunctional black families. A Midwestern police chief says that after Sept. 11, 2001, homeland security took precedence over domestic crime fighting.

There's truth in all those claims, but none of them gets to an important point: that self-hatred still rages across much of black America, or, as Wiley wrote in the very first line of his essay, "Black people have a high tolerance for everybody except themselves."

In that sense, the murder epidemic in so many black communities is symptomatic of a spiritual sickness. It arises out of the destructive belief that black lives are dispensable, utterly meaningless, and that neither destroying one nor being destroyed in return is really that big a deal.

Though he used to be a police officer, it's clear that the Rev. John Raphael of New Hope Baptist Church believes that the city's disturbingly high murder rate won't be cured with police work by itself. The Police Department should be doing a better job investigating crimes and making arrests before retaliatory murders are committed, but even if investigations were to be improved, they could only be conducted after crime are committed. It's Raphael's aim to reach this city's would-be murderers before they commit the crime, to teach them both to recognize their own self-worth and that murder is wrong.

You wouldn't think that last point would have to be taught. However, murder fits in nicely with some people's code of ethics. To them, murder is the acceptable and appropriate response to real or perceived disrespect, not to mention the appropriate response to past murders.

In response to such thinking, Raphael has a single word response: "ENOUGH." That single word is printed on the baseball cap he wears, and he's printed signs with that word around the city. On Sunday, he began yet another prayer and fasting vigil on the neutral ground on Claiborne Avenue. In doing so, he is continuing his ministry as a modern day John the Baptist: standing in a Central City neighborhood that has become far too wild and urging the criminal element to repent.

"I'm looking for ideas," he said, "because I don't want to be trying something just for the sake of trying something. One thing, though. I do believe in the power of prayer."

We should all pray that he's successful, that there's a miraculous breakthrough in 2009 and that young black men and boys who haven't already done so discover the joy that comes from loving themselves.

Jarvis DeBerry is an editorial writer. He can be reached at 504.826.3355 or at jdeberry@timespicayune.com.

What do you think of the "spiritual sickness" of black violence in your community?
Other than disdain and arrests, what are people doing to deal with this sickness in
your community?

12 comments:

jah said...

Hey daddy,
I agree that the numbers of our young black men flailing is sadly very significant and manifests itself as type of "spirtual sickness." Conversley, there are many young black men doing positive things and experience this joy you mention. We rarely seem them. They are not the problem so we don't hear about them... perhaps sparingly when there's an article in a community newspaper. Usually in the graduation editions in June. What is apparent is this: unlike these young people, those engaged in black violence don't seem know much about spirituality or love, which is synonymous in my view. Without, its not likely one could experience this joy. Instead, our young men apparently hit the streets looking for something they can otherwise relate to...acceptance in living what they know. I'd guess they have little comparison to contemplate. From an early age, how we communicate to our kids, both verbally and by example makes a world of difference. Living with little direction except criticism tends to breed contempt and low self-esteem. How do you navigate through life when this is all you know? Hang with who you can relate to. So, if you have poor or no role models, don't witness what it means to "love," a child isn't given right kind of ammunition to be a positive contributor to society. It's difficult to address the problematic life this breeds once a youngster hits puberty. Weeds grow abundant with little care. A rose tended, blossoms. Somehow, as a people, we need to learn to better communicate, tell and show those we love, that we love them...culivating our roses.

Revvy Rev said...

You got it right MacD, the root cause is self-hate which was a psyche job and chains put on our minds. What will it take for us to open our eyes and quit falling for the same old okey-doke?

Somebodies Friend said...

I agree totally McDaddy, and Jah said it perfectly, Living with little direction except criticism tends to breed contempt and low self esteem. There was a lot of yelling and little direction when I was growing up and it took its toll on me. I try to be a better person every day and prayer has never hurt, let me tell you.

Kellybelle said...

Say it! That is the truth. Black violence is just the symptom of a deeper self-hatred. Where did this start and how do we stop it.

blackwomenblowthetrumpet.blogspot.com said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
blackwomenblowthetrumpet.blogspot.com said...

Hey there MacDaddy!

There seems to be a widespread indifference in most major cities about black male violence...I don't even refer to it as "black violence" because the MAJORITY of black-on-black murder is committed by black male killers.

This is not to say that black women and black female adolescents are not engaged in physical violence against each other but murder by black women of other black women is just NOT nearly as prevalent as the black male-to-black male killings.

I am sure that no one will believe me but we did not see black boys and black teens engaging in this level of savagery when black men were in the homes raising their own boys and "policing" the activity on their own blocks.

I believe that when black boys/black male adolescents have an incomplete self-identification due to a complete absence of paternal nurture, MOST will completely self-destruct.

Mosr boys do NOT turn out "normally" without any paternal nurture.

I really believe that.

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!
Lisa

nicki nicki tembo said...

powerful post daddy

SagaciousHillbilly said...

Daddy, This reality is heart wrenching. And yes, such behavior is all about self-hatred.
I don't believe self-hatred can be delt with in any way but from the inside out, but if, like jah suggests, we hear more about young black people succeeding and doing good things they can be an example of the possibilities and provide some small amount of hope.
When hope is gone civility collapses.
And having said, it needs to be delt with from "the inside," I'll STFU.

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nun in the hood said...

Hi, MacDaddy...Thank you for the powerful, though distubing piece on Black Violence as a spiritual sickness. The wound is so deep, and not until white America wakes up to its responsibility for the wound of racism and oppression marked throughout its history, will the healing begin.
In our community of North Minneapolis, our City Council person, Don Samuels and his wife Sondra have been holding prayer vigils at the site of violent deaths for the past 4 or 5 years. They also believes in the power of prayer, and of the need for people to come together for support and comfort. I have attended many of these vigils, and sometimes this is the only 'wake service' that some people have.

MacDaddy said...

"there are many young black men doing positive things and experience this joy you mention. We rarely seem them."
Jah: You are so right Most of them doing the right thing. So the ones not doing right don't see any positive role models on screen to whom they can relate. Maybe the white corporate media isn't interested in showing these brothas, but we African Americans should do a better job of highlighting them. Thanks for the insight.

Rev: It's as if this self-hate is a lingering aspect of slavery. In fact, one of the Afro-centric psychiatrist I used to read a lot--Na'im Akbar-- wrote a couple of books about it. The book I remember and used in speeches was called "Breaking The Chains of Pyschological Slavery." It basically said the same things you did: That slavery put chains on our minds of such depth that we African Americans have yet to fully recover from it. Blessings, Rev.

"we did not see black boys and black teens engaging in this level of savagery when black men were in the homes raising their own boys and "policing" the activity on their own blocks."
Amen, Lisa. And I remember growing in such a neighborhood. I hated it. I wanted to sneak around a house and kiss a girl. But some man would say something like, "Boy, go home! Don't make me have to call your mother. She'll put a whooping on you!" Looking back, I can see it as a good thing now. But when you're young adolescent with harmones raging, it doesn't seem like it. But it kept me out of trouble.

Somebody: To try to be a better person each day is all we can do. We're with you.

Kellybelle: Where did this start? I don't know for sure. Some say we lost it at the traumatic effect of the beginning of the slave trade: that the dramatic effect of being captured and having to be chained on such a long voyage transformed us psychologically, making us so lost that we were vulnerable to the ideas and values of our captures. Some swear it was slavery. Some say it was at the end of reconstruction, a period when we practically lost our political rights and any hope of getting redress from the government. But I haven't figured it out yet.

"When hope is gone civility collapses."
So true, Sagacious. Many of the gangbangers with whom I worked not only didn't hope to president, or Fireman, or police officers. They had no hope of being alive in five years. So they just lived for that evening, that week. So I had to work with them with that in mind.

Nun: As you know, I know Don and his lovely wife Sondra. They do great work. Thanks for mentioning them. Blessings.

Hernadi: Don't ever come to this blog again to advertise. Stay away.

CurvyGurl said...

It's definitely a spiritual sickness. I live in the wealthiest predominately black county in the U.S., however, we still have a high murder rate. This issue is so complex. The police alone can't and shouldn't be responsible for instilling the life values that come from a solid upbringing. There are so many causes, but I think that welfare was the slickest and sickest thing to happen the community. In my opinion, many of the prevalent social ills are clearly linked to it. My area is clearly defined by the haves and have nots.

The lack of guidance and youth programs are other contributors. I hate seeing kids sit around in the summer, but many don't have anything else to do. There are adults committed to making a difference by mentoring, advocating, etc. but more has to be done, and I know I need to get off my tail and help. One young man, Ron Moten, who runs a program in DC is making a huge difference in the area. He was on NPR today and enlightened me to a number of issues that I never thought of.

http://www.peaceoholics.org/home.htm