In the wake of the George Zimmerman verdict, it seems the right-wing has finally discovered the problem of black on black violence. Ben Shapiro, Rush Limbaugh and many other influential conservatives have taken to the airwaves and to social media to argue that African-American leaders ignore black on black homicides while focusing all of their attention on “rare” white on black racially-motivated murders.
These vocal right-wing commentators argue that violence in African-American communities is being pushed under the rug, because black leaders do not care unless the perpetrator is white . However, nothing could be further from the truth. Community leaders in several inner city neighborhoods all across the country have been trying earnestly to curb the violence, and in some neighborhoods those efforts have paid off. One community that has had tremendous success in reducing black on black homicides is the predominately African-American Brooklyn neighborhood known as East New York.
Twenty years ago, in 1993, the 75th police precinct that includes East New York recorded 126 homicides. in 2012, the same precinct tallied just eighteen homicides, over an 85 percent drop from the grisly year of 1993. So far through July 7th of this year, the entire precinct has had only six homicides, over a ninety percent decrease over the same period two decades ago during the same dates in 1993. In the area bordered by Linden Boulevard, Ashford Street, Pennsylvania Avenue and Cozine Avenue, an area once notorious for violent crime, a year has passed since the last shooting, thanks in part to community programs designed to curb violence. An organization called Man Up! has intervened to try to encourage peaceful conflict resolution in the neighborhood. The area they work in, which covers a population of about 20,000 residents has been homicide free for a period of 363 days and counting as of July 18, 2013.
East New York has undergone a remarkable transformation since it earned its reputation in the 1980s and 1990s as New York City’s “killing fields” . The neighborhood is remembered by many as the site of the 1984 Palm Sunday Massacre, when a cocaine user stormed into his drug dealer’s apartment and murdered two adults (one pregnant) and eight children. More people were murdered in East New York in that single day in 1984 than have been killed in the first half of 2013. For over a decade and a half after the massacre, the neighborhood continued to suffer from chronically high rates of homicide which helped solidify its reputation as one of the most dangerous places to live in the country. Even as late as 2011, the 75th precinct’s 33 homicides made it one of the deadliest sections of New York City.
However, neighborhood programs supported by city resources have turned the tide around and the number of homicides continues to drop precipitously, in this former urban war zone. Yes, crime still exists and poverty continues to be a problem in East New York, but residents are banding together to fight urban violence and to make a difference in the community, and the statistics suggest they are winning that fight.
While black on black homicides remain a serious problem it is a problem that is being addressed within communities of color. In 2011, according to FBI statistics 2447 African-Americans were murdered by members of their own race in the United States. While that number is tragic, it pales in comparison to the 7361 who were killed by fellow African-Americans two decades earlier in 1991. Black on black homicide has decreased by 67 percent in two decades, a sharper rate of decrease than white on white homicide. During the 1990s, black on black homicide was more common than white on white homicide. In 2011, more white Americans were murdered by fellow whites than the number of black Americans killed by other blacks. Yet, no right-wing commentator has spoken about the fact that white on white homicides now outnumber black on black murders in the United States.
While it is nice to see that influential conservatives have finally noticed that black on black violence is a problem that needs to be addressed, they are a couple decades late. African-American community leaders and local activists have already noticed the problem and have been working tirelessly to make the neighborhoods they call home safer. In East New York, and other places like it, black on black crime has been receiving attention from community leaders for over twenty years now, and efforts to curtail violence are in fact working.
Sure, much progress still needs to be made in reducing the number of black on black murders in America’s cities, but before white conservatives self-righteously point the finger at black community leaders, they should recognize that the problem is already being addressed and that black on black homicide is decreasing at a faster rate than white on white homicide. All of this is taking place because individuals in these communities are working together to bring about an end to violence, and for the most part they have done so without white conservatives so much as raising a finger to help in over twenty years. Though apparently very few people in the media have noticed, African-American neighborhoods are much safer than they were twenty years ago. East New York is just one example out of many, on how violence is being confronted, and how progress is being made every day to reduce the number of incidences of black on black violence. Too bad nobody on the Right seems to care or notice, but whether they see it or not, it is happening.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.