Marshawn Wolley

Marshawn Wolley

A Black male genocide has ravaged our city for over a decade and still as a community, too many of us have yet to face a hard truth — we are killing each other.  

A review of the annual Violence Policy Center reports on Black male homicides shows that for 10 years Indiana has been in the top 10 nationally for the number of Black male homicides, missing the top 10 only once when we came in 11th.

We have had four consecutive years of record homicides in Indianapolis and the vast majority of those dying have been Black men and boys.

In 2018, there were 103 Black male homicides out of the 159 homicides, compared to 21 white males and 10 Latino male homicides.

Last year 14 Black women, seven white women and one Latina female and one woman of unknown race were killed.

Yes, nearly five times as many Black males were murdered compared to white males last year.

Of the 103 Black male homicides last year, where an arrest has been made, with only a few exceptions — the suspect has been Black.  

We are not only dying at an alarming rate the numbers show it is us killing us.

While most crime is intra-racial, (ex. white people kill white people, Latinx kill Latinx, etc.) there is more killing happening in our community than others.

Black males are killing Black males in Indianapolis at numbers that surpass all other groups combined.

Those are the facts.

So, the next question becomes why?

Focusing on root causes like poor education that robbed young Black people of prospects years ago, trauma, depression, drug abuse and even the lack of conflict resolution skills has to be part of the answer but never a justification for unjustifiable behavior.  

Despite the trauma, depression and hopelessness experienced by significant segments of the community there is no excuse for taking a life.

Some may take issue with this problem being framed as a Black community problem.

Black people didn’t create the systems we live in.

We don’t control the business decisions to build grocery stores in our food deserts and food swamps.

We don’t control the schools which have racial achievement gaps year after year.

We do not control the criminal justice or public safety systems. (As a community we don’t have badges or arrest powers either.)

We’ve never controlled the mayor’s office or the prosecutor’s office.

We don’t even control the economics in our community.

Far beyond control, the reality is that instead of comfort and safety, too many of us live in fear in our own homes.

Some may even feel the system is meant to be this way. What else is supposed to happen when our young people are attending failing schools, struggle with the basic necessities of life, and we as a community ignore their plight — their sometimes not too silent cries for help.

For them it’s like we don’t care.

Black people are far from powerless, but there are powerful systems at work that we do not control.

Succumbing to this fatalism results in lost generations.  

There is also fatigue.  

Black people are constantly in mourning and crying out on this problem.

There are marches, memorials along our streets and in our parks, T-shirts with faces of loved one’s lost, coaches, mentors and teachers recalling the good in who we lost to the streets while at the barbershops — in the Black community the dead stay with us.

There’s also the demand for somebody to do something — anything. 

Most residents of Indianapolis aren’t even adjacent to this problem — they don’t have multiple friends, mentees or people who they can identify with that were murdered on our city streets.

Kevin Brittain, Audrell Lungsford and Eric Stewart where my childhood friends. We all played football together. They are all dead now because someone made a decision to take their life.

In the past, some said that it was criminals killing criminals.

This year already six children have been murdered.

Based on what IMPD knows about motives for homicides in 2018, the vast majority of shootings have come from arguments or disputes and too often from people who knew each other.

This actually compounds the problem as IMPD could better develop a strategy for Black homicides if they were gang or drug related. This is not the case.    

There’s also this sense that “we” are talking about “them” both publically and even in conversations amongst ourselves with respect to the violence.

“We” aren’t “the shooters.” “We” aren’t the one’s out here killing people over petty disputes. “We” don’t take pride in being able to claim bodies — people we’ve killed.

“They” do that.

These killings are happening in their community — too many people, Black, white and otherwise may not say this publicly, but it certainly feels like this assessment lingers in the air in this city.

Most politicians dare not say Black homicides.

They stick to public safety and implement public safety strategies because to address the community issue seems to be beyond their capacity.

A frustrating cry does not move the needle on this issue, but I am passed the point of making politically acceptable comments on this problem.

Hold politicians accountable, but we have to hold ourselves accountable for the violence happening in our community too.

What I’m hearing …

Elected to the Elkhart City-County Council in 2000, Rod Roberson, an African American won the democratic mayoral primary early this month becoming yet another potential Black mayor in Indiana.

A November 2018 report by SAVI estimated that 200,000 people live in food deserts. As the city continues to develop a food strategy, the city recently announced the opening of a food coordinator position.

The question is whether a coordinator level position is adequate to meet the challenge of our food desert and food swamp problems?

See you next week …

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