Shawn Maxam asks what is the price of a Black boy’s life?
I have supposed the black man, in his present state, might not be in body and mind equal to the white man; but it would be hazardous to affirm that, equally cultivated for a few generations, he would not become so.
This is a question I always ask myself around this time of year. Yesterday marked the six year anniversary of my brother’s death. He is now just an American statistic. A black male dead at the age of twenty-two. His murder is still unsolved. Another cold case in a cold uncaring world.
New York City’s Office of Victims Services has a fund that reimburses families funeral fees if they have a family member who is killed violently. The amount was $6000 dollars. In the eyes of our society that’s how much my brother’s life was worth.
Since its establishment in 1966, this agency has provided substantial financial relief to victims of crime and their families by paying unreimbursed crime-related expenses, including but not limited to: medical and burial expenses, …Burial expenses up to $2,000 ($6,000 for crimes committed on or after November 1, 1996).
It’s kind of the city to offer such a service. Doesn’t make it any less morbid though. Someone had to decide what amount would be paid for predominantly Black boys lives. The sad part of all of this is you don’t receive the money until weeks after the funeral. You have to provide receipts for proof and processing. We were fortunate to have kind friends and family who donated money to help bury my brother.
Having to retain all of the paperwork led to tarred grieving process. Today I don’t even know where exactly in New Jersey my brother, Shawnel, is buried. My family had to cut corners to bury our loved one. We couldn’t afford a decent graveyard site, coffin or suit. We had to bargain for every aspect of the funeral services. This was the last time we saw him but because we lacked resources we couldn’t even really celebrate his life. A life that was ended violently.
After the recent tragedy in Aurora, Colorado discussions about gun control were reignited. Why does it take such a sad event for us to have these important conversations? There is a pandemic of gun violence in our country. We only talk about it when this violence touches white communities but it is always present. We talk about the various crisis men are facing today. Are Black males not men too?
I am less concerned about the violence happening in communities of color. My question is how do we get guns out of the hands of not only individuals who go on mass killing sprees in schools and movie theaters but how do we make sure guns don’t infiltrate minority communities as well. Maybe if my brother’s killer only had a knife or bat my brother may still be alive today. I share some statistics below.
While the number of white murder victims was down (dropped 27 percent) in 2010, the number of Blacks jumped 31 percent from 272 to 357, according to the “Murder in New York City: 2010″ report. Two-thirds of the murder victims in 2010 were Black despite only being 25 percent of the city’s population. A third of the people murdered in the city were black teens and young men between the ages of 15 and 29.
Violent crime has long afflicted minorities in Chicago at a much higher rate than the rest of the population, and the spike in homicides in the first half of this year provides an especially stark measure: 201 of the 259 homicide victims were African-American. While blacks make up about 33 percent of the city’s population, they accounted for nearly 78 percent of the homicide victims through the first six months of 2012.
A 2007 special report released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, reveals that approximately 8,000 — and, in certain years, as many as 9,000 African Americans are murdered annually in the United States. This chilling figure is accompanied by another equally sobering fact, that 93% of these murders are in fact perpetrated by other blacks. The analysis, supported by FBI records, finds that in 2005 alone, for example, African Americans accounted for 49% of all homicide victims in the US — again, almost exclusively at the hands of other African Americans.
To put these number in perspective, recall that over 6,400 U.S. service men and women have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan combined over the course of a decade-long war fought in those nations. During the Vietnam War, which lasted nearly 13 years, some 58,000 Americans were killed — nearly 13 percent of whom were African American.
I would like to see more of this conversation happening among men and women of all ethnic groups. This isn’t an issue that the Black community can solve on its own. But we also don’t want paternalism and pity. There needs to be collaboration among everyone if we are going to save these priceless little Black boys.
Please share this with friends, enemies and temporary allies alike.
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Flick image via Paul Lowry