Three words -- "Yes We Can" -- allowed America to write a new chapter in its history. It was a glorious chapter because with those words, "Yes We Can," America elected its first African-American president. Such an accomplishment wasn't even on anyone's immediate radar. It just evolved from a unique set of circumstances. That accomplishment, however, cannot blind America to other glorious feats that need to be conquered in order to keep this nation great.
One such challenge is the gun violence that is plaguing America and literally killing our urban youth and depressing many inner-city neighborhoods.
Some would argue that inner city gun violence is not an American problem, but simply a problem contained within the black and brown communities. To accept that line of reasoning is to set America on a course to failure. However, to acknowledge that this is an American problem is not to let the black and brown communities off the hook. There is much work for us to do. The problem cannot be resolved in an "urban vacuum," if you will.
In 2010, according to FBI's crime reports, there were approximately 12,996 murders in the United States. Of those, 8,775 were caused by firearms. That's about 68%. Historically, based upon available FBI statistics, about 56.4% of the gun homicides were committed by black offenders. When you begin to look at this situation locally, the figures tell a compelling story and present a compelling challenge.
According to NYPD records, in New York City in 2011 there were 515 homicides. 61% of those deaths were as a result of gun use. Black New Yorkers were 62% of those murdered. 38% of all victims were black males between the ages of 16 to 37. 86% of black males aged 16 to 21 were murdered by gun shots. 60% of the suspects in the murders were black and 83% of those suspects' victims were black. These types of statistics repeat in other urban areas and in California, the percentages are similar, but show greater portions of Hispanic involvement.
What is to be done? We must first accept the fact that this is a national problem. We must bring national resources to bear on the problem. We must also acknowledge that this is not a gun control problem. We have gun laws on the books that if we focused our national resources on enforcing these laws and prosecuting the traffickers of illegal weapons we would take steps forward. We can't stop there however. We must be able to provide jobs and opportunities to America's families and to their children. We must engage our citizens. We can't stop there either.
As all things are ultimately local, we must continue to support the anti-violence initiatives that are happening across the country. Whether you are speaking of 'cease fire programs,' 'community education programs,' 'interventions,' 'occupying the corners' or police and community relations improvement programs' they must be fostered and developed. We can no longer accept the status quo. Our parents and those that struggled for our freedom from Jim Crow and bleed for the right to vote would not allow our communities to be internally victimized.
We must not allow our communities to continue to be stained by the bloodshed of gun violence. We must not allow our elected officials to divert resources away from our schools, our jobs and our housing. We must not allow the gangs to provide a more welcoming environment then our homes, schools and jobs. Nor must we allow our children to possess illegal weapons. We must remember that together our power and our ability to determine what private enterprise will do and what government will do is awesome. The hands that once picked cotton and now belong to a president can ensure that America's future is strong by not allowing America to deem us weak. Yes, we can stop the violence; we can stop the illegal gun possession; we can stop the excuses and we can stop being ignored and start holding all accountable. Yes We Can!
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