J. Pharoah Doss: There’s lies, darn lies, and crime statistics

In April 2015, a Black man died in the back of a police vehicle in Baltimore, sparking weeks of protests and rioting. Black Lives Matter activists told the media that White racism was the source of “state-sponsored violence.”

Conservatives argued that internal problems in Black communities, such as Black-on-Black violence, were more serious than external issues. The BLM activists accused conservatives of blaming the victims while disregarding systemic racism.

While BLM activists and conservatives yelled at one another, USA Today published a headline that attracted little notice. The headline read: Baltimore’s May homicides are the highest in nearly 40 years.

Following the violence in Baltimore, the 2015 Aspen Ideals Festival invited author Ta-Nehisi Coates and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu to discuss ways to break the cycle of violence in the inner city. Before the discussion began, Coates and Landrieu briefed the audience on the grim statistics of urban America. 

Since 1980, 630,000 Americans have been killed, outnumbering those killed in both World Wars. African Americans accounted for half of the victims, despite the fact that they make up only 13 percent of the US population. In New Orleans, there were 150 to 200 homicides each year, eight times the national average; 95 percent of the murder victims were African Americans aged 16 to 25.

Coates proposed that the only way to break the cycle of violence was to make policy decisions that resulted in the elimination of White supremacy. Landrieu argued that policy changes took too long, particularly in cities plagued by this “culture of violence.” Instead of attempting to transform society, Landrieu stated that we must change the way individuals think.

Coates objected to Landrieu’s claim that Black Americans have created a “culture of violence.” Coates claimed that African American life in this country has been brutal since 1619. African Americans have always lived in a violent culture. It is unsurprising that violence occurs, but African Americans do not have a “culture of violence”; rather, they have a culture of self-preservation.

Coates captivated the audience more than Landrieu did.

That same year, BLM attracted even greater attention by disrupting events during the Democratic Presidential Primary. Landrieu attempted to lower the number of Black-on-Black homicides in New Orleans, and Coates relocated to France.

Subsequently, the Journal of the American Medical Association released a study that received little attention due to its failure to confront White supremacy or promote a culture of self-preservation. The study’s title was Suicide Trends Among Elementary School-Age Children in the United States. According to the study, suicide was the leading cause of death among children under the age of 12, and the number of Black children under the age of 12 had doubled between 1993 and 2012. According to the investigators, “To their knowledge, this was the first national study to observe higher suicide rates among Blacks compared to Whites.”

That historic first remained unnoticed because Black Americans were too preoccupied with condemning President Donald Trump’s racism. By 2018, suicide had become the second leading cause of death for Black adolescents aged 10 to 14, and the third leading cause of death among Black teenagers aged 15 to 19.

Today, Black suicide rates remain unnoticed, but another troubling number has arisen in 2024.

Three months ago, President Biden met with police chiefs at the White House. The president and police chiefs were proud of a report that showed 32 cities had a 10 percent decrease in homicides in 2023 compared to 2022.

In 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, homicides in the United States increased dramatically. Unfortunately, the 10 percent reduction in homicides just returned the murder rate in most US cities to pre-pandemic levels, which were nothing to brag about. Despite a 10 percent decline in homicides in 2023, the report emphasized that the most startling statistic about homicide in the United States is that Black Americans are murdered at eight times the rate of White Americans.

As horrible as eight times the rate sounds, it is not the disturbing numbers that have arisen in 2024.

According to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s police chief, juvenile crime is the most pressing issue in his jurisdiction. We’re seeing a lot—not just the numbers themselves of how many more juvenile crimes we’re seeing, but the age of them and how they are decreasing in age. It’s depressing to see 12- and 13-year-olds wielding guns and shooting and murdering one another.

If the adolescent crime rates in Charlotte-Mecklenburg are any indication of what to expect in other American inner cities, it’s even more depressing that they went unnoticed when President Biden praised homicide rates returning to pre-pandemic levels.



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