In American society we tend to ignore the obvious answers to certain questions, and there is no doubt that we are practiced at the art of ignoring “real” solutions to gun violence.
In their Tuesday edition The New York Times had a front page story concerning the rise of murder rates in major American cities this past summer. The piece mentioned several metropolises but zeroed in specifically on the city of Milwaukee Wisconsin. There have already been 104 murders this year in Milwaukee, a number the trumps the 86 that occurred all of last year and there are still four months left in 2015.
Because these murders are largely committed with cheap and accessible handguns, disproportionally by
and to African-American men people on the right side of the political ledger are claiming that this is the real problem that black folks must overcome. All of our legitimate worries about police misconduct, abuse, and flat out murder are misguided when compared to the racist misnomer that is “black on black crime.”
Conservative media has been going particularly hard on this exact topic, in light of the recent murder of a Texas Deputy Sheriff by a mentally-ill black man in Houston Texas last week. Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman criticized members of the “Black Lives Matter” movement saying that “Our system of justice absolutely depends on law enforcement to be present to protect our community, so at any point when the rhetoric ramps up to where calculated, cold-blooded assassinations of police officers happen this rhetoric has gotten out of control, We’ve heard “black lives matter”, “all lives matter”, well cops lives matter too. So let’s just drop the qualifier and say “lives matter and take that to the bank.” Once those words left Hickman’s lips it was all systems go for the likes of Brietbart, The Blaze, and Fox News.
If only it were that simple. Good people everywhere grieve for the loss police officers who lose their lives in the line of duty but what everyone from Sheriff Hickman to Elizabeth Hasselbeck refuse to acknowledge is that people who kill police officers go to jail, much in the same that black people who kill other black people go to jail. Cops who kill black people get a paid vacation and a return to duty. As much as I feel for the officer in Houston and his family they still have hope that the murderer of their loved one will be held accountable for his actions. The families of Rekia Boyd, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and countless others don’t have that hope. The murderers of their loved ones had breakfast with their own families this morning, some have returned to their respective police forces where they will be granted with the opportunity to wreak more havoc on black and brown people in the cities that they work in.
We as a society, one that loves to boast about our exceptionalism on what seems like an hourly basis should be able to tackle all of these issues surrounding guns, crime, and police/community relationships. It is possible to chew gum and walk at the same time.
Last year the state of Wisconsin had the highest percentage of African-American unemployment of any state in the union at 19.9%. When focusing in the city of Milwaukee—the city at the heart of The New York Times’ Tuesday piece—that number is even higher. This is ironic given that there is a certain Governor from a certain region making a White House bid as we speak.
Democratic Mayor of Milwaukee, Tom Barrett, who as the piece points out is up for re-election this year should be asked at every stop and at every debate what he is proposing to stop the violence? If his answers don’t include public investment in jobs, education, and affordable housing, combined with buyback programs for weapons and a willingness to stand up to the gun lobby, then he is the wrong man for the job.
There has never not been a time in America where ills affecting black folks have been met with prescriptions containing personal responsibility. The reality is that personal responsibility and individual virtue can’t combat the long lasting and ever present ramifications of racism and white supremacy, you know…. poverty, blight, and violence. If they were honest with themselves people who criticize activists over their opposition to police misconduct would admit this, but when a narrative needs to be painted for individual gain ignoring real solutions to solvable problems is the way to go.