Gun Violence, Culture & Race Relations In The United States

Michael Brown, a resident of Ferguson, Missouri was a young black man on his way to college.  Sure, he was allegedly involved in a robbery case where he was suspected of stealing a pack of cigars and harming a clerk who was trying to stop him before leaving the scene. But alas, the “innocent until proven guilty” clause is moot in this situation, because now we will never know. On August 9 2014, the unarmed Brown was shot to death in broad daylight at the hands of a police officer [Darren Wilson], who according to reports, did not even realize that Brown was a suspect in the robbery incident when he stopped him and his friend who were allegedly walking down the middle of the street blocking traffic.

A Ferguson protest. Image credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images

A Ferguson protest. Image credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images

According to a witness report, Brown was seen tussling with Wilson, but just as he backed away was shot at multiple times. In a final moment of surrender Brown raised his hands, but the officer kept on firing at him, even to his death.  To add fuel to this fire that was screaming to be lit, another eye witness allegedly live tweeted the whole incident. What followed has been uproar of epic proportions. From violent protests across the country to the looting of local Ferguson stores, actions have been said to be reminiscent of a historical lineage of violence and segregation in the United States. By all standards, there was certainly nothing that warranted Brown’s death.

Police aggression towards unarmed black men has been epidemic in the U.S. From Guinean immigrant Amadou Diallo to Florida resident, Trayvon Martin, police brutality has played a strong role in widening the racial divide that still very much exists in the United States. But the question many ask is “Why don’t we see this type of activism in case after case of black on black crime”? While this problem has been addressed by black leaders at national, state and local levels, has it simply been accepted as a cultural norm among lay citizens?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for each African American who uses a gun to commit suicide, five are killed by other people with guns. In addition to this, black youth between the ages of 10-24 years had significantly higher rates of homicide nationally, when compared to other racial groups. One story that received media attention was that of  three year old McKenzie Elliot who was killed in a drive by shooting; while the female victim survived, Elliot died hours after the shooting, leaving behind a young mother who may never get over the senseless loss of her child.

Why wasn’t there a rally worthy of national attention held in response to this?

While this case is just one of thousands, it would be gravely ignorant to conclude that “black on black” crime as it is coined, is a result of inherent criminal tendencies among one race of people. However, it will be important to understand the racial and socio-economic trends that have influenced homicide rates.

So what does Michael Brown’s death say about the United States? At the heels of the fatal murder of Eric Garner, the country still has a long way to go in reconciling biases, stereotypes, and perceptions.  There needs to be a somber realization of the United States’ past and present history of racism, but equally as important is a hard look at the impact that negative socio-cultural norms continue to have on the black community, even today.