“Is genocide taking place in the Black community? Are African American males unconsciously committing genocide against themselves and their communities?”
Those questions were posed by Agbara Bryson at a recent forum hosted by Bryson’s New Millennium Institute.
The answers to those questions are both depressing and energizing.
Yes, Black on Black violence is pervasive, but it is not irreversible. The trigger for this violence is Institutional racism.
Bryson distinguished between external genocide like Nazis against Jews and Hutus against Tutsi in Rwanda.
“Our genocide is indirect. Self genocide,” Bryson said.
Dr. Leslie McKnight, with Peoria City/County Health Department, reported that homicide is the leading cause of death for people between 15 and 24. Nearly 80 percent of those deaths are due to gun violence, and more than 70 percent were Black males.
She called homicide among African American men “a chronic disease.”
The media was repeatedly criticized during the forum. One speaker said when five deaths in the white community occur, media coverage is intense, but when 500 people in the African American community are killed, it’s treated as routine.
“We’ve become desensitized,” said Gloria Clark, with the Peoria Community Against Violence.
Dwayne Harris, member of the Nation of Islam, said, “Our culture has been stripped away from us. Crime and economics keep us down.”
Bryson said gangs are intergenerational with membership passed down from grandfather to son to grandson. That’s a manifestation of institutional racism. When gangs are seen as financial security, family, hope and justice, that means society is viewed as unjust, inequitable and hopeless.
Demographic trends show that institutional racism is unsustainable. Incarcerating huge segments of the population does not solve problems, it exacerbates problems.
Research is clear: discrimination hurts all of society. We can’t afford to exclude some segments of society from productive lives. Demographics will demand that we become more equitable or we will face cutting off, discriminating against and marginalizing ever greater portions of our population and our workforce.
Anyone who thinks the minimum wage should not be raised to a living wage is wrong just based on demographics. Society will become unsustainable with increasing segments of the full-time work force living below the poverty line.
According to a recent New York Times piece, “Plenty of research indicates that diversity has many benefits. Diverse groups are better at problem-solving; in mock trials, diverse juries give fairer verdicts; diverse companies are more profitable; researchers argue that diverse countries have stronger economies. And the United States is not only becoming more diverse; it’s also growing more mixed. Mixed-race people are among the fastest-growing segments of the population – between 2.6 percent and 6.9 percent of the population, depending on the study. By 2060, the segment is projected to double.”
We’re never going back to a homogeneous “Leave it to Beaver” white world. That mythical world was racist. “Make America Great Again” is an expression of racism. We can’t gerrymander our way around justice and demographic trends, even if the Supreme Court refuses to act on its Constitutional role to curtail partisan gerrymandering that undermines voting rights.
The solution starts with acknowledging that “Black Genocide in the Black Community” is universal, societal genocide. Survival requires universal access to economic opportunity and justice.
Liberation theologist Leonardo Boff said the opposite of poverty is not wealth, it is justice.
Boff has said liberation theology emphasizes empowerment, not paternalism, welfare and exploitation. He said religious fundamentalism is a pathology because fundamentalists think theirs is the only truth and all others are wrong and morally corrupt. That thinking leads to discrimination and conflict. That thinking is not only genocidal, it is anti-life and suicidal.
Peoria County Sheriff Brian Asbell recognizes institutional racism and is working on solutions. He attended the New Millennium Institute forum on Black Genocide.