When we talk about growing violence in America’s larger cities we frequently focus on New York and Baltimore. (And for good reason, to be honest.) But the nation’s capital has been experiencing its own problems along those lines lately. A rather chilling recounting of some of these “local stories” provides the backdrop for a recent op-ed column in the WaPo by Colbert I. King.
I’ll confess that some of the stories of violence and mayhem King is talking about were completely unknown to me, leading the author to compare Washington to “the wild west.” One example is the case where the Metro had decided to wave the white flag and stop running bus lines after dark to a particular section of Elvans Road SE because somebody had been shooting at the bus. (After public outcry, the Metro retreated from their decision and sent the buses back anyway.) This was followed by more people being gunned down in the streets and in their homes this month.
King notes that a greater police presence might not make much of a difference because the criminals really don’t seem to care. In one of the most shocking bits of evidence presented, three people were shot one night on Missouri Avenue NW. Sadly, that might not have been a notable enough event these days to raise an eyebrow if it weren’t for one thing… it happened within eyesight of the 4th District police headquarters.
So what’s the solution if you can’t just throw more cops at the problem? Mr. King offers some tough medicine which certain high profile activists these days aren’t going to want to hear. Read this portion carefully.
Not to get all existential, but the problem is much deeper than synthetic drugs, high-capacity gun magazines, turf wars, rejiggering police deployment or keeping an eye on repeat violent offenders.
We have on our hands — in our neighborhoods, on our streets and maybe living next door — walking disasters: individuals who believe that their lives matter, but not yours or mine. Neither do our laws and institutions.
The Wild West’s outlaws felt that way, too. But it didn’t turn out so well for them. Won’t for ours, either, in the long run.
The challenge, as always: to keep our potential outlaws from going down that path. That’s not up to the police. Look at the faces of the killers and their victims. It’s on us — parents, preachers, politicians, community pontificators — all who profess that black lives matter, to prove it.
For some reason it’s always tough for anyone taking part in the public discussion to try to bring up the staggering amount of violence which takes place in our cities. Because the phenomenon occurs largely in the most economically depressed areas, this largely falls within the black community. Rather than focusing strictly on violence which happens between the races, conversations such as this need to keep in mind that the FBI’s homicide data for 2013 (the latest year available) shows that 2,491 black Americans were murdered. Of those, only 189 were committed by whites while 2,245 were done in by black suspects. (It should be noted that the same report will show that the vast majority of white homicide victims were killed by other whites as well.) The vast majority of this can be chalked up to gang activity in the cities. There’s a big problem with violence inside the community, but these conversations are generally cut short any time a white politician or journalist tries to bring it up.
When an analysis from an African-American writer like King treads into these waters, specifically name checking the Black Lives Matter movement, it’s sure to raise a fuss. But it’s also a reality that needs to be dealt with. Reforms in some police procedures, better training and body cameras are all positive steps, no doubt. But if you really want to cut down on the number of deadly encounters between black citizens and the police, it’s never going to happen until a way is found to drive down the crime rates significantly and we start giving the cops a reason not to be policing those communities so heavily. That’s not race war talk, folks. It’s just math.