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The Real Enemy
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by Peggy Butler
"If there is no enemy within, the enemy outside cannot hurt you." -- African proverb
There is one fact that, whether for apathy or detriment, is of utmost importance in the social dominion of African-Americans at the present moment. This fact is the seemingly unawareness of Black-on-Black violence.
Perhaps the best example of this enigma can be found in the recent case of 16 boys charged in the death of a Milwaukee man, who was beaten with rakes, shovels and broomsticks. According to reports, the deadly altercation began when a 10-year-old boy hit Charlie Young Jr. with an egg. In retaliation, Young, 32, starting chasing the boy, but a 14-year-old boy came between the two of them. Young punched the boy, knocking out a tooth and drawing blood. Subsequently, Young was pummeled by the youthful mob; they beat him so severely he later died as a result. Sadly, the victim and alleged perpetrators were all African-American.
So where is the outcry from Black leaders denouncing this heinous crime? Where is the anger and outrage of the African-American community? Where is the furor from civil rights organizations that foster humane tactics? Not surprisingly, their voices have been eerily quiet. And why is that? Why do we as Blacks become angry when we are killed by members of other races, but remain unaffected when we kill each other? Have we become so predisposed to violence in our community, that we simply don't care?
Black leaders eagerly address racism, reparations and police brutality, but how many times have they had a candid discussion of Black-on-Black violence? Moreover, can you recall the last time this issue appeared on a race relations forum?
To further emphasize this problem, we became upset upon hearing about the White cops in Los Angeles who were videotaped beating a 16-year-old Black teen earlier this year. Similarly, we screamed bloody murder when James Byrd Jr., a 49-year-old Black Texan, was chained to a pickup truck and dragged to his death by three White men. But where was that scream when we heard about the 16 African-American youths who beat a Black man to death? There was barely a whisper.
Do you know who is responsible for the high homicide rate among Blacks? Take a guess. If you say Caucasians, you'd better guess again. The #1 group largely responsible for killing Blacks is Blacks. According to a 1999 FBI report, Black males ages 15 to 19 are the leading victims of murder by firearms at the hands of other Blacks. Similarly, a 1995 FBI report revealed that approximately 49 percent of U.S. murder victims that year were Black. That is a staggering figure. More puzzling is the fact that more than 95 percent of those murders were committed by other Blacks.
Other statistics worth noting:
Between 1976 and 1999, 94% of African-American murders were committed by African-Americans. Among Blacks aged 12 to 24 who were victims of violence, 82% of the offenders were African-American. (FBI, Supplementary Homicide Reports, 1976-99) These figures plainly indicate that instead of trying to live peacefully, we are shooting, stabbing and beating each other to death. Yet, we continually ask why everyone else treats us differently? The reason is, I believe, because people of other races assume that if you have difficulty loving and respecting others of your own race, then you cannot possibly care about people of different ethnic groups.
Do we ever stop and think how we might appear to others when we disregard each other so? Unintentionally, we've made jokes of ourselves in the eyes of other races. We cry out for respect, yet deliberately withhold it from each other. And, as I observe the current state of Black America, I am deeply saddened by what I see.
In assessing this issue, it's difficult to acknowledge who is the real enemy? Is it the White Establishment that held our foreparents in captivity for hundreds of years? Or is my enemy the Black person who greets me on the street with a smile on his or her face and hatred in their heart?
Death is death, whether at the hands of Caucasians, Hispanics, Asians or African-Americans. Moreover, a killer's color should not be a deterrent in denouncing crime. What happened to Young is appalling. And if the young men who assaulted Young are indeed guilty, they should be sentenced accordingly.
Speaking of the law, did you know that studies show that the punishment Blacks receive when the victim is White is far more severe than if the victim is Black? Does this mean that an African-American's life is worth less in comparison to their White counterparts? Based on the aloof reaction of Blacks in relation to Black-on-Black-violence, it would seem so.
With my fingers typing furiously on the keyboard, my eyes casually scan the TV screen. Glimpsing the weatherman's plaid suit, I wonder what the average person will say when another Black person meets their death at the hands of another African-American today, tomorrow, or whenever it happens. The answer is simple. They will shake their head and say with a sigh, "Yeah, so what?"
For too long we've been thinking that our enemy was the other race; but if they were our enemy, then who is the enemy now? Sadly, our enemy has changed his color to Black. Or is that the way it has always been? We have met the enemy, and unfortunately it is ourselves.
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