Cleveland Councilman Zack Reed's May Column | News
Urban terrorism: Addressing Black on Black Crime
Block by block. Neighborhood by neighborhood. Gun by gun. A rampant form of terrorism is sweeping inner city African American communities, and we as a community are hesitant to discuss the issue head on: black on black crime.
Black on black crime is taboo when it comes to the African American community. It’s often discussed behind the privacy of closed doors, or after another senseless murder. African Americans will rally together to address issues of racism and equal opportunity, but quietly shy away when it comes to the terror we inflict upon each other on our streets.
It’s time we had a frank discussion on black on black crime. It’s time that we, as a community, come forward to acknowledge this deadly trend and reverse the morbid grip this “terrorism” holds in our neighborhoods.
Slowly, but surely, local governments are coming forward to acknowledge the issue and foster an open dialog to reduce crime and the unnecessary loss of life.
In the southern part of our state, Cincinnati City Council and that city’s public safety leaders held a number of public hearings to address black on black crime. Since 2005, 86 percent of all homicides in Cincinnati were black on black. Cincinnati’s police chief’s observations and recommendations are clear: African Americans need job opportunities; and young men and women from single parent homes need a sense of family beyond the inclusions gangs offer.
In Philadelphia, Mayor Nutter is not mincing words when it comes to black on black crime. “If the Ku Klux Klan - you know, those other guys in hoodies, the ones who really are sinister - killed 230 black men (the number slain in Philadelphia last year), the city would be on lockdown. If 230 Americans got sick from eating tainted spinach, the USDA would conduct a national recall. But 230 African American men killed in one city? Not one word. No hearings, no investigations. Nothing but silence.”
Now back to Cleveland. Since January and the publishing of this column, we have seen more than 20 murders. The majority of these actions were directed at, and committed by, African Americans. Who is to blame? How do we correct this alarming trend? And more importantly, why do we ignore it and hope it will just go away?
First and foremost, we must have an open and cumulative dialog on the issue of violence as it relates to health and society. We are doing so. As part of the Healthy Cleveland Initiative, we held two forums on violence. This June, we will hold one focusing on our youth and the violence in their lives.
When the number of crimes increases, the public is quick to jump on the lack of police officers on the street. Police officers enforce the laws of the city and protect residents. They cannot police the lost ways of many in our economically stressed neighborhoods.
What the African American community needs are resources, opportunities and second chances. We need a stable and healthy education system to prepare our young men and women for careers or higher education. Secondly, we need jobs. We must give disparate and idle hands a productive means to contribute to Cleveland. We must also stand behind our community with resources to ensure African Americans are healthy and prepared to meet the challenges of today’s work force. And finally, we must be able to give a second chance to those who have stumbled and want to reclaim a productive role in society. We have to ensure we have job training and placement services, and willing companies, to help assimilate ex-cons back into the mainstream population.
It’s time we take the discussion of black on black crime from the kitchen table to the streets. Ignoring this issue and hoping you do not fall victim is not a solution.
Cleveland City Councilman, ward 2