There’s too many of you crying
Brother, brother, brother
There’s far too many of you dying
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today”
Those lyrics are from the classic Marvin Gaye song, “What’s Going On?” The song was released in 1971. After seeing police violence against Vietnam War protestors, Four Tops member Ronald “Obie” Benson wrote the initial lyrics. Benson gave the lyrics to Gaye, who had family members who fought in the war, and he developed it further.
The Vietnam War is over, but the song is still relevant today.
I can’t help but ask the question “What’s going on?” and think of the opening lyrics to this song when I consider the state our city is in right now.
I’m referring to the number of homicides involving Black people, especially Black males. The data is stark. African American males were 75% of homicide victims in 2019. Out of 153 murders last year, 115 involved victims who were African American. Only one-and-half months into 2020, and the outlook appears bleak. If things don’t change, Black males could be the majority of homicide victims again.
Too many mothers continue to shed tears over the deaths of their sons and daughters. Their deaths don’t just affect their mothers, children and other family members. Our entire community is affected.
There’s been a lot of discussion from city leaders and law enforcement about who’s doing what and who’s not doing enough. Is this conversation just a ploy to make it look as though certain groups are trying to fix the problem but other groups are impeding the process? Is it a ploy to make it look as though work is being done when it’s really not? We don’t need political posturing. We need effective tactics that bring solutions.
As a citizen of this city, I get really sick of city leaders pointing the finger at each other, holding meeting after meeting or studying the problem ad nauseam. It’s time for some action, not lip service.
I recognize there are efforts in place to stop violent crime, and I’m not discounting those efforts, but the conversation surrounding the issue is problematic and unproductive.
While I will never disregard systemic racism and the countless issues it creates that work against Black people, none of these issues makes us inherently murderous. What is it that makes Black people kill Black people more so than any other ethnic group in this city? We have to take responsibility for our actions and our community.
I’m not trying to turn this into a Pound Cake speech, but I can’t ignore the fact that it’s us against us — usually over nonsense. We have to stop and ask ourselves, “What’s going on?” Is there something we need to do as parents, family, community that we’re not doing?
I believe everything starts at home. Parents have to teach children to value life — not just theirs but others. But it doesn’t end there. What do we as a community need to do? We have wonderful programs in our city that give our youth an outlet, but these programs don’t reach all of our children. Do we need to reach out to more young people? Unfortunately we don’t live in a bubble. The actions of others could come knocking at our door even when we’re not involved. How many times have we heard of an innocent bystander being caught in the crossfire?
If we resolve to make sure our juveniles have positive activities and influences, what do we do when the perpetrators are people well into adulthood? How do you reach this group?
We say we need to do something. But what is “something”? I realize I’ve posed more questions than answers. If we had the answers, we wouldn’t be in this predicament. We need to figure out what “something” is, work together and do it. Now.
We can’t let another year pass where African Americans make up the majority of homicides.