BY LAURA WASHINGTON
For months, that mantra has fueled marches, headlines, and public policy pronouncements in the wake of the police-related killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in Staten Island.
Thousands have marched, harangued, looted, and burned to bring attention to the racial injustices wrought by our flawed criminal justice system.
Black Lives Matter, they exhort. Black men and boys are being executed by racist police officers, they claim. They demand justice and change.
Do black lives matter, in places like Chicago’s Englewood, Roseland and Humboldt Park, when young black and Latino men and boys are shot down every day — by their own?
Demario Bailey would have turned 16 last Tuesday. According to the authorities, Demario was shot to death in a dark tunnel in Englewood, a good kid on his way to basketball practice with his twin brother.
Demario’s family said he was killed when he wouldn’t give up his jacket to the murdering thieves. Four teenagers have been charged with the heinous crime.
Demario’s execution is just the latest in an inexorable string of black-on-black crimes in Chicago and around the nation.
Do all black lives matter? That’s what my friend Andrew Morrison was wondering the other day. “I find it interesting that we have huge uproar about the violence about the police brutality in regards to Michael Brown,” he said.
Yet, when it comes “to the violence on the South Side, the marches and the uproar about the shootings in the African-American community, not as much attention is paid to that.”
Andrew is a Jamaican-born, but has lived in the states for most of his 49 years. Every day as he drives home from his service industry job, he passes through Englewood’s bloody streets. He reads the papers, and it’s the same old story. Black folks shot, many children. Over drugs. Over turf. Over a jacket.
It has become mundane. Hum drum. “Black-on-black crime is, sort of, more accepted,” Morrison notes. “We don’t seem to have a huge body of folks that get involved in it, coming out and saying ‘that’s wrong.’ ”
We don’t want to. We don’t want to take responsibility. Chicago and other urban centers suffer from an epidemic of black-on-black crime.
The mouths and megaphones scream bloody murder about cops who kill black men. Young African American males are stereotyped, targeted and demonized in our society, they cry. Law enforcement and public officials must address and police abuse of communities of color, they demand.
When it comes to the (far greater) numbers of blacks who kill blacks, they sing the “more” chorus. More jobs. More social programs. More cops.
What about our own misconduct? Black men and boys in Chicago are far more likely to be murdered by a “brother” than a cop of any color. More often the police are trying to protect us, from us.
We must start by acknowledging the pathology and lack of personal responsibility at the root of these senseless crimes.
“I don’t think we have come to the point where we have to kill each other,” Andrew says. “There has to be a different way.”
The African American community is trapped in its own form of genocide. If black lives really matter, we should be marching — on ourselves.