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"Being a Negro in America means trying to smile when you want to cry. It means trying to hold on to physical life amid psychological death. It means having your legs cut off, and then being condemned for being a cripple. It means seeing your mother and father spiritually murdered by the slings and arrows of daily exploitation, and then being hated for being an orphan."
That quote by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is as relevant today as it ever was.
Our children are dying in the streets and in many ways, they are being blamed for their own deaths. They are being hated for the conditions they are born into.
When we talk of violence in the Black community, many people want to blame that violence on the young Black men and women who are victims of it.
People want to blame the youth for the guns and crack that are killing them.
Automatic weapons did not just walk into our neighborhood in the arms of Tyrone the drug dealer.
It is deceptive to espouse that Black men are somehow responsible for systematic racism and classism, but making such statements is easier than taking action, or facing one's own responsibility.
More than half a million Americans are victimized in handgun crimes each year, and our community is the hardest hit:
3,792 children and adolescents under age 20 died in 1998 due to gun violence.
While 85% of all gun deaths of people under age twenty are males, the rate for Black males is 2.4 times higher than Hispanics and 15.3 times higher than for Whites.
For Black males, aged 15 to 19, firearm homicides increased 158 percent during the last decade of the old century, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Reports.
In the last decade, Black males, ages 15 to 24 accounted for nearly 60 percent of the victims of homicides involving firearms.
The total number of teen deaths due to gun violence has dropped, but, really not by much. By 2002, the above number from 1998 dropped to 3,012. That is still 3,012 too many.
We hear the term "Black on Black Violence," and we assume that African Americans are in the streets hunting each other down. Many of us fail to realize that typically violent crimes happen close to home, which means that we tend to harm the ones closest to us. In other words, none of us are out looking to increase our own death rate.
There are myriad reasons why young Black males are being subject to gun violence and the fingers don't all point to the young men themselves.
Society itself is to blame for conditions that facilitate crime and violence, yet, even many African Americans are quick to blame each other.
In America, Blacks are often blamed for everything, from the high crime rate to the unemployment rate of poor Whites.
Today, many African Americans are blaming poor African Americans.
Talk to the average educated African American and he or she is likely to tell you that Black men are going to prison at higher rates than Whites because they are simply committing more crimes.
However, according to research by University of Washington sociologist Becky Pettit "the war on drugs and other changes in the penal code, coupled with the fact that education is far more important economically today than it was 20 years ago, may have led to the huge disparity" in Black and White imprisonment rates. "We are locking up men who are already disadvantaged at higher rates than 30 years ago," Pettit added.
The problem in the Black community is Black people who won't look back, or who look back in disgust.
The sad fact is that many of us work in a world where there are few of us and live on a block where there are also few of us, yet we complain about what happens in areas where we do not travel as though the people are not a part of us and somehow to blame for their own condition.
We don't all go to the community church, the block party, the community park social or other community events that took place when we had real communities. Rarely do so-called "progressive" Blacks even attend community functions, where the perception is that people on "lower levels" of society will be in overwhelming numbers.
How many progressive" Blacks believe that the slums, projects and the 'hood are all filled with crack-slinging undesirables who just need to go to college and stop being lazy? How many "progressive" Blacks believe that those undesirables made a choice to sling crack, tote guns and bring it into their neighborhoods?
Even if you believe these things, I only want to know what you have done to change it. Nothing? Then you are the worst thing to ever happen to Black people. Even worse than racism, crack, gun violence or Rush Limbaugh.
Fifty years ago, in the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education, the ruling stated that separating Blacks based on race, brings on feelings of "inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone."
The oppression of a people leaves emotional scars, which run deep into the self-esteem of the oppressed, grows within the community and perpetuates itself as efficiently as folk tales, songs and disease.
If we think poorly about each other, our thoughts become reality, and prevent us from raising the condition of our sons and daughters.
I hear so-called middle class Blacks complain that Black people need to "stop whining," about racism and "just stop being lazy." They say that we need to stop selling crack and stop shooting each other and just get a job.
Now, I'll ask you: if White men in America are having a hard time finding a job, can you really believe that Black men are just lazy?
Certainly, it is tiring to hear every thing blamed on "the White man," but is the answer to now blame everything on the Black man? Have Black men become the new Boogeyman?
Whatever problems exist are the problems of us all. If we continue to talk about each other as opposed to working with each other, then what is left of our community in this nation will disintegrate and vanish.
Next Week: "Just Us."
Darryl James is an award-winning author of the powerful new anthology "Notes From The Edge." He released his first mini-movie, "Crack," and will soon release his first full-length documentary. View previous installments of this column at www.bridgecolumn.proboards36.com. Reach James at