“They are killing our children.” That has been the primary rallying cry of protesters in Ferguson, Mo., after two young black men were recently killed by police officers.
Tragically, their deaths barely register among the 6,454 black citizens who were victims of homicide in 2012, according to the FBI Annual Uniform Crime Report. Just 13% of the total population, they suffered 50% of all murders.
But the untold story is that 91% of black victims were killed by another black person, according to Table 6 of that FBI report. Blaming white police officers for those deaths is simply diverting public attention from the deadly war raging in their own communities. The lives of over 5,500 black citizens would be spared each year if their murder rate was simply reduced to the same statistical level experienced by the rest of the country.
So who can end this deadly cycle of violence? In 2009, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder described America as a “nation of cowards” when it comes to discussing race. An obviously accomplished man, he might begin that conversation by asking himself if he has done enough to encourage other highly successful black men and women to join him to personally reach out to kids who need positive role models. They are living proof there is better life that awaits those who stay in school, avoid drugs and gangs and get married before they have children.
Twenty-five years ago, most Americans had already moved on from an earlier era of racism when Gen. Colin Powell was consistently named as one of our most respected leaders. In 2008, we reinforced that message by electing President Barack Obama. Their rise from humble beginnings should inspire every young person. Isn’t it now time for all of us to reject the tired, old, divisive, racist blame from the mob leaders in Missouri and elsewhere?
The President could have personally inspired thousands of kids to follow in his footsteps if he had visited high schools in Los Angeles during his recent political fundraising trip.
In 2013, the L.A. Unified School District graduated only 14,000 of the 30,000 black and Hispanic male students who had started as freshmen four years earlier. Instead of asking Hollywood movie makers and record producers for campaign cash, perhaps he should have publicly shamed them for their violent images and the life-destroying “thug” culture they encourage with their rap music. No white person has equal credibility to deliver that message.
But returning to Holder’s complaint, like most white Americans, I can only imagine the inner rage of a black person who is profiled and stopped for little apparent reason.
But let us be realistic. Profiling will undoubtedly continue because assessing potential threats is simply part of human DNA -- and we cannot ignore that black inmates are nearly 40% of the prison population, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice. But we also profile and assess the potential threat from a heavily tattooed white man. And we will profile the occupants -- regardless of race -- of the car next to us with the throbbing music pounding out a message of hate.
Fifty years ago, the Civil Rights Act enabled millions to compete and succeed -- but millions have still been left behind in Ferguson and elsewhere. Responding to Holder’s challenge, we owe these folks a personal reassessment to assure we are offering equal prospects for success for every person in our lives.
Finally, the FBI reports there were a total of 8,855 firearms homicides in 2012. If anti-gun groups want to save lives, they should focus on preventing the tragic and disproportionate 6,400 annual murders of black Americans. Blaming white Americans will not end this tragic carnage.