Sheila Toppin, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Clark Atlanta University
A clarion call is rendered to the black community to stop the violence. In just one year, from 2019 to 2020, the firearm homicide rate in the United States increased 35% to a record high in over 25 years. Strikingly, for Black males 10 to 24 years old, the rate of being a firearm homicide victim was 20.6 times higher than White males within the same age group in 2019, and 21.6 higher in 2020 (Scott et al, 2022). This is consistent with the Federal Bureau of Investigations trend analysis of racial and ethnic homicide victims from 2010 to 2020. The figure reflects the FBI’s findings on the percentage of Black victims increased by 6%, while the percentage of White and Hispanic victims decreased, by 6% and 9% respectively (Council on Criminal Justice, 2021).
Race and Ethnicity of Homicide Victims, 2010 – 2020
The process of decreasing firearm homicides in the black community is complex, but is possible with a commitment to the community. The African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child” provides a framework for how African descendants can begin the process. For a village to raise a child, the members must first acknowledge they need to help each other, they must be willing to participate in the community and they must have reliable support systems. First, to decrease firearm homicides in the black community, the members or village must first acknowledge they have a crisis and need help addressing the problem. A crisis is a crucial stage or turning point. The Black community is in crisis as it represents only 14 percent of the U.S. population, but 52 percent of all homicide victims in 2019. Additionally, more than 17 Black Americans died each day from homicide and the Black female homicide victimization rate in the U.S. was twice the overall female victimization rate and three times the white female homicide victimization rate (VPC, 2022). Because little assistance will come from politicians due to their differing political agendas, the black community must stand up as it did in the Civil Rights Movement to demand change.
Second, the black community (both adults and youth) must be willing to partner with schools, faith-based organizations, and businesses to seek better outcomes to gun violence. The black community or village does not need or want more school policies that will enhance the School-to-Prison Pipeline, but instead wants school districts and policy that supports the community’s desire to be free of violence. There is no secret the mass shootings in schools occur mostly in white schools, but when a shooting happens there is public action taken to address the problem. The black community needs the same help to address its problem with gun violence.
Lastly, the village must be supported by reliable and trustworthy governmental institutions including political representatives, public and mental health providers, and public safety advocates. The relationship between the black community and law enforcement has been strained by many instances of police brutality and killings of unarmed black people. Despite these illegal actions, the black community must rely upon the police to address crime; thus, a bridge is needed to improve this relationship. Having a reliable and trustworthy support system will help the black community to strengthen its capacity to address the firearm homicide crisis. In conclusion, a clarion call is rendered to our black community or village to acknowledge we have a firearm homicide crisis, we need help to address this crisis, we are willing to take a stand, and we need trustworthy support from governmental institutions.
Council on Criminal Justice (2021). Homicide Trends: What You Need to Know. Council on Criminal Justice Brief. https://counciloncj.org/homicide-trends-report/.
Kegler SR, Simon TR, Zwald ML, et al. Vital Signs: Changes in Firearm Homicide and Suicide Rates — United States, 2019–2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2022;71:656–663. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm7119e1.
Violence Policy Center (2022). Nearly 90 Percent of Black Homicide Victims Killed With Guns, New Violence Policy Center Study Finds. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/nearly-90-percent-of-black-homicide-victims-killed-with-guns-new-violence-policy-center-study-finds-301586053.html.