Us…will always sing the blues. ‘Cause all we care about is hairstyles and tennis shoes. – Ice Cube
Those words were stated by rap icon Ice Cube on the song “Us,” which is on his 1991 Death Certificate album. Nearly 21 years after the release of this song, these words still ring true, probably more than they did then. Undoubtedly, the condition of the black community continues to deteriorate at an increasing and alarming rate while we stand idly by. As a community we don’t put an emphasis on education and have come to accept substandard educational systems. The impoverished condition of our community has become acceptable. We have become desensitized to our young black boys killing each other.
When will we wake up and take action? The Trayvon Martin tragedy has served as an awakening of sorts for our community. While I do not believe that the outrage and the protesting are misplaced, my hope is that we can change this tragedy into a larger movement. That we can take something so horrific and look in the mirror at ourselves. Truth be told, there is much that we must fix to break these ever worsening conditions.
Use your brains! Use your brains! It ain’t them that’s killing us, it’s us that’s killing us. It ain’t them that’s knockin’ us off, It’s us that’s knockin’ us off. – Tupac Shakur
The United States Department of Justice reports that from 1980 to 2008, 93% of black homicide victims were killed by black offenders. In 2008, black homicide victims were killed at a rate of 19.6 per 100,000 and black offenders killed at a rate of 24.7 per 100,000. This is 6 times and 7 times higher, respectively, than white rates.
The prison report from the DOJ reports that at yearend 2010, nearly 3,100 of every 100,00 black males were incarcerated. This is a rate that is 7 times higher than white males.
While it is true that the system shares some of the blame, it is even more true that we share the lion’s share of the blame. At the end of the day, we are allowing this to happen. I have heard it said many times that Trayvon could have been any of our sons and I will not dispute this. However, it is also true that Cedric Bell, Mark Watts, or any of the 78 other black males killed in Chicago this year could have been your son too.
In Los Angeles, just in the month of March, there have been 14 black males killed. This is playing out all across the country and these black males could have been your son just as easily as Trayvon. The horrible and shocking truth is that black males between the ages of 15-19 years of age, are 46 times more likely to die of a homicide than white males in the same age group.
Education, however, means emancipation. It means light and liberty. It means the uplifting of the soul of man into the glorious light of truth, the light by which men can only be made free. – Frederick Douglass
The 1954 Supreme Court decision, Brown vs. The Board of Education, was supposed to be the transformative moment that was to give equal education to blacks. In 2012, we still do not have that equal access and many studies have concluded that schools are more segregated than ever. It is education that unlocks the chains of poverty and provides access to economic opportunities. Without the key that unlocks these things, you are confined to impoverished conditions. It is poverty that breeds crime and imprisonment.
Black and poor students are 70% more likely to have a teacher that is not certified in math, science, social studies, or English. According to The Education Trust, after the 4th grade, black students are already 2 years behind white students. This doubles to 4 years once those students reach the 12th grade. For many of the black students that graduate high school, this means they are 4 years or so behind their white peers. Unfortunately, not many black students are finishing school. A 2011 report released by Education Week, reports that only 57% of black students in the class of 2008 graduated high school.
Things are even worse for black males. According to a report by the Schott Foundation, only 47% of black males will graduate from high school. In the state of New York, only 25% of black males graduate. These are appalling numbers that only serve to feed the cycle of poverty, crime, and incarceration.
As much as we should be protesting the failure of the the justice system in what appears to be the racially motivated murder of Trayvon Martin, we need to also be out in the streets putting an end to the things mentioned here. It is clear that the NAACP isn’t going to do it, they are too busy giving out Image Awards. If we looked at our “image” in the mirror, if we took a deep hard look, we shouldn’t like what we see. We need to take the same fight that has arisen in us as a result of Trayvon and put our community back together.
If not us, who? If not now, when?