Black lives won’t matter until the killings stop

When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made his famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington in 1963, he did so in the context of Black people fighting for the right to be considered equal to their white brothers and sisters. 

He did not give people the green light to go out and commit some sort of violent crime against one another. King talked about the right of Black people to have the same pathway to chase life, and liberty, and to have the opportunity to be happy.  

He alluded to the dogged history of voter suppression in the United States where Black Americans were having their voices drowned out by rogue tactics of Jim Crow racism, especially in the South. 

The thirst for equality for Black Americans was clearly laid out in King’s speech as he bluntly addressed the pains of segregation, police brutality, and slavery, and how all of these metrics robbed Black people of their mental, spiritual and financial well-being. 

At the time that Dr. King delivered his unparalleled speech, the iconic civil rights leader didn’t envision Black people perpetrating violence at a skyrocketing rate nearly six decades later. 

He sure as heck could not see the fight for voting rights would be nearly smothered by the surge of violence that Black people are orchestrating against one another.         

According to the FBI’s Crime Data Explorer 2020 report, Black Americans are No. 1 (273, 595 reported incidents) ) when it comes to committing violent crimes. Blacks are second (245,706 incidents) when it comes to being the victim of these violent crimes.     

To put those numbers into proper perspective, Black people make up just 14 percent of the population here in the United States. So, in the wake of what Dr. King preached, marched and fought for, it appears that Black Americans as well as the rest of the nation are in a quandary on how to move forward in keeping step with the dream he had.    

That begins with some in-house cleaning. Black lives won’t matter until we stop killing each other.  When I first came across the news that Memphis rapper Young Dolph (Adolph Robert Thorton Jr.) had been shot and killed (November 2021) in a cookie shop in his hometown, my heart just sank. 

I was saddened. Then I became angry. As of last count, three Black men were charged with Young Dolph’s (Adoph Robert Thorton Jr.) murder. The violence hasn’t ended there. Other young Black hip hop artists such as PnB Rock have lost their lives to violence being perpetrated at the hands of someone who look like them.   

It is difficult to consume the level of violence we see in society today. Is gun violence simply a reflection of the times that we live in? When will it stop? And how do we as a people and country continue to embrace the peaceful messaging of Dr. King in the middle of all of this turmoil?    

For all those folks shouting Black Lives Matter at the top of your lungs, the value of Black life has a lot more value to it than ushering out a catchphrase that’s trending. Yes, we get there needs to be a serious overhaul when it comes to addressing police reform and the inequities within the criminal justice system. 

But my father used to tell me that charity begins at home. That means cleaning up your own house before you go poking your nose into somebody else’s place. For Black America, for better or for worse, this means getting off of our duffs, including myself, and doing the hard of trying to fix this heartbreaking cycle of Black people killing Black people. 

The lethal number of Blacks inflicting violent crimes against each other has become catastrophic. How in the heck can we continue to run out and grab a picket sign and protest that Black Lives Matter when there is an incident involving law enforcement when we fail to clean up our own backyard with Black people gunning down one another?  

And let me add this: All of those recent smash-and-grab robberies are not helping the image of Black people at all. Now let’s get back to the matter at hand. According to the Associated Press, the BLM movement made a reported $90 million dollars off of Black death in 2020 as surges of protests lined streets everywhere.

Nipsey Hussle
Rapper Nipsey Hussle out and about in the community, visiting with students at a local elementary school in South Los Angeles on October 22, 2018. The special event the musician took part in was the Hussle x PUMA Hoops LA Court Refurbishment. Courtesy photo

And yet when it comes to black-on-black crime, it’s been mostly crickets from the social justice organization. But they are not the only ones slacking in this area. 

I find it to be strange that a lot of these street and community activists running around talking about white oppression and making a lot of noise about gentrification go into silent mode when Black people are killing each other. 

It has become very easy to claim to be a victim for Black people when the perpetrator of violence or crime is white. The rallying cries and protests are very few and far between when the generator of violence happens to look like us.          

I have never met Mr. Thornton, but I have seen him before. 

Every day that I am allowed to wake up and find myself fortunate to look in the mirror, I see Thorton and so many others who look like him. I see me, but at the same time, I see my middle school friend Byron Jackson, who lost his young life to senseless gun violence. 

Young Dolph. Photo courtesy

The perpetrator who shot and killed my friend was not the police, but someone who wore the same skin color that Jackson did. He was Black. From time to time, I think about Jackson, who was a guy who shielded me from bullies and who had my back any time someone tried to mess with me. 

Whenever he crosses my mind, what I can see is Jackson’s huge afro and that terrific smile of his. I miss him. It still disturbs me to this day that he lost his life before he even experienced his 16th birthday. It bothers me that other friends I grew up being around and peers I attended school with lost their lives to gun violence and for the sake of being Black and different. 

This is not a Chicago or Los Angeles or New York thing. Black-on-Black crime has become a national disaster. I grew up in Southern California, where navigating ways to get home from school was a way of life if you wanted to survive. Now, how fun is that? 

Just after a day of learning, you have to worry about not getting shot or losing your life to elements of criminal enterprise just because you might be wearing the wrong color or stepping foot into the wrong territory. 

In the memory of Dr. King, the killings, the drive-by shootings, the sneak attacks, they have to stop or else we are going to be nothing more than a lawless society with no wind beneath our sails to guide us in the fulfilled direction of the human experience.

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