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If Black Lives Matter, Not Only Police Need to Be Accountable

By: Joyce Jefferson - Dec 12, 2014, 6:00 am

EspañolThe deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, coupled with the absence of punishment for the policemen involved, have sparked many protests and debates across the country. Aside from police brutality, accusations of racism immediately rose to the forefront. Some commentators have even predicted a nationwide race war.

These two incidents are far from the first of their kind; such regrettable and fatal confrontations have been occurring in the United States for decades. No one is flat out denying that police brutality happens, or that at least a decent portion of cops racially profile when it comes to minorities (as numerous of reports attest). However, there is more to the story that ought to be considered.

This next section is very difficult for me to write, since it may offend or anger people, but to understand an issue and find a solution, you have to get to the root of the problem. Sadly, the chief challenges for black youths of the inner city lie not within police departments, but within their own homes. Most of these homes are headed by single parents.

Many people contest a negative depiction of single parenthood with regards to predominantly black communities. Its prevalence makes it a very sensitive subject — so taboo that people who point this out (including me) have been demeaned, labeled, and virtually excommunicated from their communities.

Over 72 percent of blacks are born to unwed mothers, and 67 percent of black minors live in single or non-parent households. The widely documented and painful truth is that the children of single-parent homes headed by women fare considerably worse when it comes to education, crime and incarceration, employment, and poverty. This is to be expected, even holding all other factors constant, particularly in the case of males who lack father figures and seek out ways, often destructive ones, to affirm their masculinity.

Instead of addressing this thorny issue, however, racism is the rallying cry when there is a black victim shot or hurt by a non-black. When it comes to black-on-black crime, an obvious consequence of broken families, no one wants to know.

Should we remain hush about black-on-black crime, rather than engage in introspection? As odd as it may sound, many people think so. They don’t want its existence to distract from or justify cases of police brutality, as it can in some cases.

But how can we expect others to respect us when we don’t even respect our own kin? How can black lives truly matter when we don’t apply the same concern when blacks kill other blacks?

One can take it a step further and see the broken home environment manifesting in black abortion rates, since our women have more than any other demographic. Do black lives matter then?

A young girl protests with University of Maryland medical students. (@PopResistance)
A young girl protests police brutality against blacks with University of Maryland medical students. (@PopResistance)

Politicians, media talking heads, and so-called leaders, even if attempting to help, have merely fueled hostility and diverted attention from the underlying problems. Some stories and angles make the news, while others don’t — perhaps because the bare truth would run counter to the narrative of division, race baiting, and political brinkmanship. These people at the top do not suffer from unstable homes and crime-ridden neighborhoods, but those at the bottom do.

Likewise, protesters who looted, rioted, and hurt even black-owned businesses did nothing to build good relations, and only affirmed negative stereotypes.

Mike Brown’s mother exacerbated this problem, even though she initially asked people to resist vandalism over her son’s death. After the verdict, she was angry and had every right to be, but calling for destructive behavior was not the appropriate way to respond. It was unbecoming to her and her family, and observers might well have thought, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

You can’t continue to approach crime and police brutality with band-aids. Even if police behave inappropriately, that does not exempt us from personal responsibility: owning up to our actions and accepting the consequences.

We need to take a look in the mirror and consider why we have so few positive role models. We need to hold up education as a priority, especially when it comes to individual rights, laws, and the US Constitution. We need to get informed, choose the right relationship partners, and learn how to conduct ourselves as males and females.

Most of all, we need to embrace a culture of values, one of individual pride, family, and respect for members of the community, particularly children. And yes, that includes using the power of the vote to hold those in positions of power accountable, the right way to do so, even if it is only effective on the local level.

No number of government programs or interventions will solve the underlying problem of values and broken homes. Change is easier said than done — and I understand the challenges that come with inner-city circumstances — but it must come from us individuals. We can and should utilize what resources we have in a positive manner to garner respect and dispel suspicion.

Edited by Fergus Hodgson.