By DeWayne Wickham
I want justice for Trayvon Martin. But even more than that, I want an end to the slaughter of the many blacks for whom there were no mass protest demonstrations or rabid news media coverage.
Justice demands that George Zimmerman, Martin’s killer, get his day in court. But it also cries out for an even greater showing of outrage for the thousands of black men and women whose murders have rarely gotten more than fleeting notice in a local newspaper. And that’s a crying shame.
While blacks are just 12.6 percent of the nation’s population, they’re roughly half of the people murdered in this country each year. The vast majority of these killings are at the hands of other blacks.
If that doesn’t shock you, maybe this will: More blacks were murdered in the United States in 2009 alone than all the U.S. troops killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to date.
Now that really makes me want to holler. But this painful truth hasn’t produced the kind of sustained national outrage that Martin’s death at the hands of a white Hispanic has generated. Why such a parsing of contempt? Maybe the people who’ve taken to the streets to protest Martin’s killing don’t care as much about the loss of other black lives because those killings don’t register on the racial conflict meter. Or maybe they’ve been numbed by the persistence of black-on-black carnage.
“The devastation homicide inflicts on black teens and adults is a national crisis, yet it is all too often ignored outside of affected communities,” according to a report on black deaths released in January by the Violence Policy Center, a Washington-based, anti-violence think tank.
Sure, there have been occasional marches and calls for action to stem the deadly black-on-black violence. But these killings continue without an appropriate national response.
The fault for this doesn’t just lie with black leaders, though the failure to kick and scream should weigh most heavily on them.
Just about everyone who claims the mantle of black leadership, or aspires to it, has come to Sanford, Fla., to march in protest of the death of 17-year-old Martin, or queued up before a television camera to voice their outrage. So why won’t these leaders take to the streets with equal fervor to stop these genocidal killings of blacks by other blacks?