The news that nine Blacks were shot and two were killed in New Orleans made headline news for a hot minute only because the shootings happened as tourists rushed into the city for the start of Mardi Gras week. If it hadn't been for the world famous event, the Black-on-Black violence would have been a ho-hum occurrence, with no mention in the national press. Black-on-Black murder may be a non-story, but the tragedy is that Black homicides fuel the nation's murder surge.
The Bureau of Justice found that the Black murder rate is many times higher than that of Whites or even Latinos. It's the leading cause of death among Black males ages 16 to 34.
More police, dozens of new prisons and tougher laws haven't curbed Black violence.
And they won't. Blacks don't slaughter each other at such a terrifying rate because they are naturally violent or crime prone. They are not killing each other simply because they are poor and victimized by discrimination, or because they are acting out the obscene and lewd violence they see and hear on TV, films and in gangster rap lyrics. The violence stems from a combustible blend of cultural and racial baggage many Blacks carry.
In the past, crimes committed by Blacks against other Blacks were often ignored or lightly punished. The implicit message is that Black lives were expendable. Many studies confirm that the punishment Blacks receive when the victim is White is far more severe than if the victim is Black. The perceived devaluation of Black lives by discrimination encourages disrespect for the law and drives many Blacks to internalize anger and displace aggression onto others that, of course, look like them.
They have become especially adept at acting out their frustrations at White society's denial of their "manhood" by adopting an exaggerated "tough guy" role. The accessibility of drugs, and guns, and the influence of misogynist, violence-laced rap songs also reinforce the deep feeling among many youth that life is cheap and easy to take, and there will be minimal consequences for their actions as long as their victims are other young Blacks. The other powerful ingredient in the deadly mix of Black-on-Black violence is the gang and drug plague. The spread of the drug trade during the 1980s made Black youth gangs even bigger and more dangerous. Drug trafficking not only provided illicit profits but also made gun play even more widespread.
The Bureau of Justice report traces the recent escalation in the Black homicide rates to busted drug deals, competition over markets and disputes over turf.
What's an answer then? Black parents, churches and organizations such as the NAACP that are quick to storm the barricades against civil rights abuses must make stopping Black violence a priority. They can do much more to provide positive and wholesome mentoring and role models for at-risk Blacks. And that doesn't mean cheerleading them when they buy $250 sneakers they don't have the money for or turning a blind eye when they skip school. In other words, they have to show by word and deed that the lives of at-risk, young Blacks count for something.
The rash of shootings in New Orleans during Mardi Gras week is yet another tragic warning that Black youth are in harm's way. It's time to do something about that.
BlackNews.com columnist Earl Ofari Hutchinson is a political analyst and social issues commentator.