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The past several weeks my social media timelines and threads have been full of commentary about the Michael Dunn trial. At this point, trials like these are becoming an annual event—as expected as the Olympic games, only more frequent. But there are no medals to be won here. Just graves to be dug. Questions left unanswered. Parent left to grieve. Much of the commentary surrounds the controversial Florida “Stand Your Ground” law. Like an experiment of a “mad scientist” legislature, its passage, in some people’s opinion, has meant open season on young, black men. It’s the culprit that claims victim after victim. In some ways, the law itself has taken on the profile of a serial killer—similar modus operandus and similar victims.
Why I Mourn
Though I am a lawyer, I’m not here to denounce the Florida law. That’s not my primary concern when it comes to young, black men. Don’t get me wrong, I mourn with the nation. I mourn with the parents of those young men whose lives were cut short in Florida. It’s a travesty.
But I also mourn with a nation that finds an average of about 6,500 blacks killed annually—most by other blacks. In our two most recent wars, spanning over a decade, there were about 8,000 soldiers killed—a truth that’s hard to swallow. Almost as many black lives taken in one year as the total death toll in two wars.
There were 421 homicides in Chicago alone last year. The locals call it Chi-raq—embracing the comparison to the conflict in Iraq. They speak of war zones and battles like they are playing a war-time RPG on an XBox or Playstation. But there’s no reset button in this game. No extra lives. The end result? Cemeteries filled with young, black men. Gone too soon.
The New Klan
I want to argue that we’ve found the new Klan. Not in its ideology, but in its impact and fear. Over an eighty-six year period, there were close to 3,400 lynchings in the South—many at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan. In 2011, more than 7,000 blacks were killed in this country. Again, eighty-six years vs. one year. The one year total of black homicides is double the eighty-six year total of lynchings.
Blacks make up about 6.5% of the population, but almost half of the homicides. Black-on-black crime accounts for most of those homicides. It looks like we’ve exchanged fear of hoods for fear of the hood. We’ve gone from looking for black men to protect us from whites to looking for the government to protect us from black men. There’s a new nocturnal threat out there and its calling card isn’t a burning cross. Ironic, is it not?
We get squeamish when we see those iconic photos—photos of our ancestors. Strange fruit hanging from southern trees. But the nightly news hardly moves us when a 15 year old is brutally shot and killed in an inner city neighborhood. We’re unfazed when we see a dotted map of homicides in our city that are as numerous as the straight pins in grandma’s sewing needle pin cushion. We’re more concerned about our hashtags than we are our kids bodies being tagged by coroners. Are their lives not just as valuable? Why aren’t we as concerned about what’s going on every day in our own back yard?
Please Do Something
Last week, I did something I’ve been putting off for a long time. I submitted an application to become a mentor for a young person here in Chicago. I found an organization I really believed in and decided to get off my lazy behind and actually do something. Sure, it might just be one kid. But it could make all the difference in the world for that one kid. It could preserve that kid from being squeezed by the noose that life in the inner city tells them is inevitable.
I’m not saying this as some savior figure who wants to go in and save the day. Just a man whose Savior did just that for him. And because Jesus saved me, I’m expected to serve others in humility and love. This is one way I’ve found to do it. If you are capable—especially if you are an older, black male—I implore you to do the same.