-- 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:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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