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OPINION: The Black Lives Matter equation

by Gary Jefferson — 

Black Lives Matter is a powerful and necessary movement.

Growing up in rural Georgia, I watched on television as young, Black urban men complained that police officers stopped, arrested or killed other Black men unlawfully.

Like many in America, I was curious and concerned.

However, with the advent of cameras on smart phones, we see firsthand evidence of many of these unlawful, horrific acts by the police officers.

Some police officers lawfully do not respect Black Lives. The equation, however, is incomplete.

As an engineering student, I was taught to complete the equation.

What about Black-on-Black crime?

Sure, we have white-on-white crime, Asian-on-Asian crime, Hispanic-on-Hispanic crime. I agree: It is about proximity.

However, I am talking about Black people now, specifically African Americans.

We have seen where Black-on-Black crime not only negatively impact the livelihood of law-abiding African Americans, but it kills innocent people, especially children.

We want the world to respect us as equals and deserving people, while respecting our right to life. However, can we obtain that respect if our own Black brothers do not treasure the lives of other Black people?

We passionately, collectively and publicly mourn the death of victims of police brutality, while only placing a polite obituary in the newspaper for innocent deaths from Black-on-Black crime.

One could reason that the violence is spawned by Black people trying to survive in a racist society. However, White America does not force a Black man to spray bullets into a crowd full of Black people while trying to kill one of his enemies or adversaries.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the national, American Black unemployment rate in 2019 was 6.1 percent.

This means jobs were relatively plentiful, yet we still had a high percentage of Black-on-Black crime, especially fatalities.

I think the violence is a segment of the Black culture. I think some young Black men think that it is “cool” and glorified to live the life of a hustler on the streets. However, who are you hustling and killing, my brothers?

Too often, you are murdering law-abiding African Americans trying to earn a decent living. (Remember, the concept of proximity.)

I think rap music and other pillars of the Black culture encourage and perpetuate this terrible behavior. Too much of rap music glorifies and praises “putting a brother on his back.”

We need to hold our rap music artists to a higher standard. We also need to think about the long-term effects of some of those so-called “cool,” “street-survival,” “respect” and “street credibility” behaviors.

Gang behavior also contributes to the high rates of Black-on-Black crime.

Why would a Black man join a gang? Really? For real, For real? It can’t be for personal wealth because most gang members live below the poverty line.

We know there are hardships and disparities that are fixtures in the Black community. But, do those factors motivate a Black man to seek gang membership, and eventually rob and kill other innocent Black people?

As Black people, we are taught coping skills at an early age to handle most of life’s unfortunate situations.

My dream is to form a team of a criminal psychologist, criminal attorneys and myself to try to understand the root cause of the violence.

There are too many assumptions and generalizations being made about the sources of Black-on-Black crime. I think young Black men join gangs for glory, praise and status. That is so sad.

Lawfully Respected Black Lives + Treasured Black Lives = Black Lives Matter.

 (Gary Jefferson is an author, social activist and engineering consultant.)

 

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