This year I’m celebrating Black History Month by talking about some significant issues in the Black community. Today guns. Fifteen-year-old Hadiya Pendleton died a week after performing at the inauguration, a victim of gun violence in Chicago, but in too many ways her story is extraordinary because black America is plagued by gun violence.
In 2011 the number of blacks under 22 killed by guns was more than triple the number of U.S. soldiers killed in Afghanistan. The number of black children killed by gunfire since 1979 is over 13 times more than the number of blacks lynched between 1882 and 1968.
And since 1969 homicides involving firearms have been the leading cause of death for black males aged 15 to 19. That is a leading cause of the hopelessness and nihilism and morbidity we see in our young black men who feel themselves one step from the graveyard every day. Perhaps more tragically: most homicides are interracial. The vast majority of killers of blacks are blacks.
The uproar over Trayvon Martin’s death and Oscar Grant’s death was righteous but we’re killing each other each day. No community is more in need of gun control, is more in need of rescue from America’s gun epidemic, than black people. And we know it. We’re extremely in favor of gun control.
A recent Pew poll found Blacks far more pro gun control than whites. Just after Newtown 68% of blacks said gun control was more important than gun rights while over 50% of whites said gun rights were still more important. 53% of blacks think gun ownership puts you more at risk while 54% of whites think guns protect. Perhaps we know that gun laws can work.
It’s fascinating to me that despite the scourge of gun violence in our community, Black gun ownership lags far behind whites. Perhaps we know Wayne LaPierre is wrong about good guys and bad guys and guns. In his recent editorial in the Daily Caller he spoke of supposedly rampant crime and murder in someplace he called South Brooklyn in the days after Hurricane Sandy. Put aside that no reporting bears that out. I live in Brooklyn and there is no place referred to as South Brooklyn but I think it’s safe to say when he says that much of country envisions a place clogged with black people.
If Adam Lanza had walked into a black public school in this mythical South Brooklyn or on the South side of Chicago, we would probably not be having a sustained national conversation about guns. Adam just smashed the pain of the gun epidemic in America’s face but black people have been living with that pain for so long we’re numb.
We’re rightly outraged by interracial killings but black on black crime is a far more prevalent problem. We need greater outrage over that. I say this as the son of a longtime gun owner who carries a small silver handgun to keep him safe as he moves through Boston’s black areas.
When people say what has Obama done for the black community, tell them whatever he accomplishes on gun control will disproportionately help us.