Last year, Hollywood released a gem of a movie entitled The Help; a film based on an equally popular book. The film featured several intertwined stories, but the central focus was on a terribly dark portion of our nation’s history. Deep in the heart of Jim Crow Mississippi, a young white woman sets out to begin a writing career, but her discomfort with the current state of racial affairs prompts her to write a book—incognito—about the lives of 12 maids working in Jackson. Throughout the course of the movie the audience is subjected to several examples of the hardships African Americans faced in a pre-Civil Rights America. They may have been freed from slavery nearly 100 years earlier, but racism and bigotry—primarily and most offensively in the deep south—afforded them an incredibly restrictive life. From one character who pushes a state bill to require separate toilets in homes that hired black help, to the shooting of a civil rights activist, movie-goers were subjected to living just a few of the horrors that African Americans faced in an era gone by.
In the days following the George Zimmerman verdict, we’ve heard from many African Americans who maintain that their lives are no different than those depicted in The Help. Even Attorney General Eric Holder, an African American himself, spoke to the NAACP convention this past week and relayed that he had to sit his teenage son down and talk to him about the perils of being an African American teen in this country today.
The truth is . . . there is indeed reason for African Americans to fear.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, which carried out a study covering the years 1980-2008, blacks are disproportionately more likely to fall victim to a murder than their white counterparts. Specifically:
“In 2008, the homicide victimization rate for blacks (19.6 homicides per 100,000) was 6 times higher than the rate for whites (3.3 homicides per 100,000).”
In other words, nearly 50% of all murder victims in this country are African American.
According to another study put forth by the same government institution, a shocking 93% of black homicide victims . . . were murdered by a black perpetrator.
In other words, as an African American in this country, you are far more likely to be murdered by another African American than anyone else.
A terribly sobering fact is that our media, which so fervently latched onto the George Zimmerman trial, positively refuses to cover the thousands of black teens and young people that are murdered on a daily basis in cities like Chicago, Los Angeles and Houston. What’s more, the very same people who led protests (many of which turned violent) in the name of Trayvon Martin don’t bat an eye at those murders. As one African American observer of a protest in Akron, Mississippi put it, “I find it kind of comical that all these neg***s decided to get together on this rally for one Trayvon Martin down in Florida . . . never take into consideration that ‘Trayvon Martin’ is right here in the west side of Akron! Over the Christmas holiday you had 8 shootings and 6 murders of black men killing other black men, and none of these (expletive) neg***s decided to have ONE rally in their honor. And you know what that is? I’m going to tell you why that is. Because a black life only has a ‘value’ when that black life is taken by a person who’s not black. As long as it’s black on black, these neg***s don’t do anything.”
Immediately following the Zimmerman verdict, many commentators, activists, movie stars, singers, and politicians came out swinging, insinuating that this was indeed the result of a country still mired in the mud of racial intolerance not unlike that portrayed in The Help.
The statistics seem to agree; our nation does continue to struggle with racial strife:
“Of the approximately 1,700,000 interracial crimes of violence involving blacks and whites, 90 percent are committed by blacks against whites. Blacks are 50 times more likely than whites to commit individual acts of interracial violence. They are up to 250 times more likely than whites to engage in multiple-offender or group interracial violence”
These are numbers. Numbers are devoid of feeling; of belief; of political party . . . numbers are unchangeable. They are, in fact, what they are.
So why is it that so many across this country—and undoubtedly across the world—are convinced that the above-mentioned numbers are reversed? That instead, the 90% of interracial crimes committed, are committed by whites? Simply put, very influential men and women like the Reverend Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Attorney General Eric Holder, many from the NAACP, among many others, refuse to move on from what was, indeed, a very dark part of our country’s history. With every speech, rally, presentation, or comment, they continue to perpetuate the idea that the same heinous racism brought about by white Americans in the days of Jim Crow, is alive and well today. Very sadly, in many cases black children are brought up by parents who, like Eric Holder did with his son, ingrain in their children a certain fear of non-blacks, and of whites specifically.
When we consider that over 70% of African American children born today will be born into a fatherless family (versus 29 percent among white children, and 53 percent among Latinos), the sky-high crime levels begin to make sense. After all, “children of unmarried mothers of any race are more likely to perform poorly in school, go to prison, use drugs, be poor as adults, and have their own children out of wedlock.”
When we combine these statistics with the actions of men like Sharpton and Jackson, whose words do nothing but continue to unearth over and over again a tragedy that society and our nation in particular have moved far, far along to rectify, it’s not terribly hard to understand young black America’s distaste for white Americans . . . and the subsequent violent crimes perpetrated against them. Be it duly noted—none of these things justify the horribly racist and violent reactions to the Zimmerman outcome. Instead, they suggest a need for immediate action.
As easy as it is to become frustrated and give up after being told over and over and over again that white America is inherently racist (believe me, I had just such a Twitter episode this week, and it’s not easy) we must resist the temptation to snap back. Instead, all Americans—white, black, Hispanic, Asian, Indian, and everything in between—should emulate the actions of people like Dr. Natalie Carroll, an obstetrician from Houston who encourages her single mother patients to marry, and promote the simplest of solutions: a stable family unit. Without fixing this dire problem, any other solution is altogether temporary.
We must all hold our media and our elected officials accountable when they are not honest about the facts, and when they go out of their way to make things appear otherwise. Outlets like NBC must be held accountable their doctoring of the Zimmerman 911 call to purposely make Zimmerman look like a racist.
Lastly, we must encourage people to leave behind the tired message of the world’s Al Sharptons, and instead accept the fact that while racism will never totally be eradicated from the world (and pockets of intense racists do exist, both here and globally), Jim Crow is no more. Instead of focusing entirely on the error of our past, let us instead focus on how we heal the problems truly facing us today.