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Violence respects neither race nor class and has become the horrific norm in neighborhoods throughout the city and county. (Contrary to main stream media hype, however, it is by no means confined to high poverty areas.) However, the recent rash of killings in South Central Los Angeles (SCLA) and adjacent areas warrant immediate attention. Fear has risen, discernable outrage has not, which is increasingly problematic. Some positive efforts are underway but must be expanded.
Cease Fire is an anti-violence coalition of violence/ gang intervention groups and concerned others, who provide a safe space for ex-bangers, ex-offenders, families of victims of violence, and virtually anyone in need of support. Those attending Cease Fire's weekly meetings are there to help, or be helped, in a non- judgmental, non-threatening setting.
Exalting violence reflects America's embedded materialism; unfortunately, it is embraced even by those who suffer most from its pernicious premise. Accordingly, my focus continues to be Black-on-Black violence for which there is no magic bullet. Still, complexity is no excuse for dodging critical issues. The deadly spread of violence among Blacks could, and should, be motivation enough to attack it full force not minimize or deny its existence.
Not only are there similarities between last year's Jena Six, 13-year-old Devin Brown's, killing in February 2005, and numerous other such cases, there is disturbing similarity in virtually all high-profile incidents involving Blacks i.e., spontaneous but temporary outrage (or support) but little, if any follow-up.
Examples of L A Blacks' transient outrage include cases like Eula Love, Leonard Deadwyler, Margaret Mitchell, Darryl Miller, Devin Brown, Susie Pena, Jena Six, "Palmdale Four", Mathew Jerome Powel, ad nauseam. Hopefully, the massive protests over the recent execution of Oscar Grant by Oakland Transit police will prove an exception with outrage the beginning, not the end.
Each of these egregious incidents caused anger and outrage with many Blacks vowing to actively work to prevent a recurrence, but their commitment and follow-up was, and is, rare. So, while Blacks decry violence and violence-breeding conditions, few seem willing to actually do something about it.
Police violence is still a significant problem: Thirteen year old Devin Brown was killed by a hail of bullets fired by an LAPD officer who wasn't criminally prosecuted but in fact, exonerated by a Board of Rights that found Devin's killing "in policy." The Police Commission did adopt a new policy prohibiting the use of deadly force when a moving vehicle poses the only danger. A crumb for the natives!
Most of LAPD traditional practices continue, including covering up for rogue cops. Chief William Bratton back-pedaled on his pledge for greater transparency by embracing redacting the names of officers involved in shootings. He also supported expanding a court decision dealing exclusively with documents, to include disciplinary hearings, as well. What's new or innovative about this Chief?
(California's Police Officers Bill of Rights mandates favorable treatment and protective apparatus for every officer under an investigation that could lead to punitive action. This is a stacked deck because their rights are paramount; under cover of the law, cops are virtually always in win-win situations.)
Community Call to Action and Accountability (CCAA) was formed immediately after Devin Brown's death. Its purpose is to help empower the community through education and collaborative action, focusing on police abuse and Black-on-Black violence. CCAA has met weekly for four years and even though is now restructuring, it continues to respond to community requests for assistance and sponsor informational/advocacy Town Hall meetings on key community issues. (The need to take up the challenge of reducing violence is greater than ever and CCAA welcomes those who share that view. It meets every Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. at Bethel AME Church, 7900 S. Western Avenue, Los Angeles.)
Violence in South Central Los Angeles may have decreased statistically, but residents see little difference. Statistics can be misleading and Bratton's analyses and prognostications are more wishful thinking than evidentiary as far as most people in South Central are concerned. Even more disturbing, however, is a surface acceptance of violence as inevitable by many Blacks and arguably, fatalism is among the most challenging, lamentable problems of all.
A crippling complacency lulls Blacks into contributing to their own burdens by impeding unity on crucial issues. Widespread violence has reached crisis proportions and while those directly affected must lead the fight to reduce it, they cannot do it alone. Violence affects us all and we must all assume some responsibility for reducing it. Indifference is an illusion, not an affordable option.
Larry Aubry can be contacted at e-mail