Crime, race and opportunity in the first week of 2020

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The very first week of the year in the Twin Cities brought much to talk about and reflect on. It highlighted some problems that have consistently hounded the Black community, like the apparently perfunctory crimes against Black folk by Black folk; the seeming inability of Black people to do for themselves; the over-preoccupation with sports, and the accompanying social perception of Black people as performers and entertainers.

The New Year started off with a literal bang as Twin Citians awoke to the news of a particularly brutal and vicious murder. A young woman was apparently tortured and bound and then shot to death and left like so much garbage in an alley in North Minneapolis. The viciousness of the murder has alarmed everyone and tempted many, yet again, to blame themselves and/or indirectly blame the Black community.

But upon further examination, that effort is wrongheaded and fruitless—worse yet, it allows the broader community and more specifically this socio-political-economic system off the hook.

Some blame the activists against police violence and racism, claiming that their focus should be on Black-on-Black crime as well. However, if we are honest, what exactly could the activists do? In reality, what can they do to stop young Black people from victimizing one another?

This is especially true for young Black people who have been propagandized to understand that the Black person wearing a different color or from a different block or section of town is their sworn enemy. As the slain rapper Nipsey Hussle once pointed out, they are hunting for themselves in the other color on the other side of town.

The problem of Black people victimizing one another is well explained by social science. Frantz Fanon and Paulo Freire, among others, have explained that internal Black violence stems from the fact that the oppressed see the oppressor in one another.

In other words, they have been taught to hate themselves so thoroughly that they, in turn, hate anybody that looks like them. But most don’t want to hear that because they ironically prefer to indulge in another form of self-hatred: blaming ourselves.

Alternately, the people displaced from the Drake as the result of a Christmas morning fire—most of whom were Black—did provide a concrete opportunity to do something, but too many of us failed to answer the bell. Whatever the motivation, the major philanthropic organizations that have stepped up so far are primarily White-run.

Both the so-called Black-on-Black crime and the displacement of people at the Drake provide an opportunity for the Black community to step up instead of simply hand-wringing or victim-blaming. Unfortunately, opportunity swings both ways. Some, though well-meaning, are tempted to use the community’s misery to pad their own bottom lines, to line their own pockets, or to put themselves in the spotlight.

But it’s not too late—the opportunity to do the right thing abounds! While we can’t cure the disease without addressing the system, we can work to build community.

One of the primary issues, besides the obvious need for shelter and food, is the stress resulting from displacement. One thing the community can still do is to open up its churches and allow some of the folks to sleep in their church basements.

The community could ask hotels to give the displaced rooms and even offer to pay for some rooms. The Black community could offer rides to the mall or organize to treat people to a movie or two. We could ask for volunteer daycare providers and social work professionals to help organize a night out for overwhelmed and frazzled parents.

For contrast, consider that many ended their week at the Target Center watching the local private Minnehaha Academy defeat Sierra Canyon out of California. Tickets for this game and another contest were initially on sale for $100. That’s right—one hundred dollars! They were eventually reduced to $25 for the Target Center matchups.

People who may have hesitated to give to help those suffering at the Drake didn’t think twice about ponying up $25 to see LeBron James and Dwayne Wade’s sons, presumably. Nothing wrong with watching kids play sports, but the price tag seemed a bit exploitative.

And, no one really knows where the gate receipts went. However, it’s highly likely that no Black institution or entrepreneurs benefited. Even television in the form of ESPN got involved in the profiteering.

Where do we draw the line on allowing our kids to be the source of profit for everyone but the people who produce the talent? And are Black folks always going to provide the circus and the gladiators as distraction for a selfish, unequal and inequitable society? Is there any wonder that if one asks most Black children what they want to be when they grow up, they say either rapper or sports star?

While internalized self-hatred and the resulting violence are endemic to this system and will not change until we have the nerve to change the system that requires it, there does exist opportunity to change some things and to help ourselves.

Justice, then peace.