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The time is right to say ‘enough’

December 2, 2007 by  
Filed under News, Weekly Columns

( The image we black folks have of ourselves — this has been heavy on my mind this week.

On Tuesday, the nation heard that assailants had shot to death NFL star Sean Taylor in his home.

Wednesday, I heard motivational speaker Les Brown fire up a crowd in a church in Bonnie Doone. Brown hammered home the point that to save at-risk black youth, we must change the way they see themselves, “interrupt the story they have in their heads,” and replace that story with something positive.

He is right.

Since then, I have read a series of columns by black sportswriters who wrote scathing pieces about black-on-black violence in the wake of the Taylor murder.

These columns appeared before anybody knew if the suspects in Taylor’s murder were black. Yet, we all knew.

That’s sad by itself.

Kansas City columnist Jason Whitlock expressed the sentiment the fiercest. He calls black men who kill other black men the “Black KKK.” He says they do the job of murdering black men much better than the KKK ever did.

He is right.

Homicide is the No. 1 cause of death for black men ages 19 to 34, and blacks are six times more likely than whites to die by homicide, according to the Department of Justice. More than 6,000 black men are murdered each year, which is about half of all male murders.

While blacks as a whole are 13 percent of the U.S. population, we lose more than an Iraq War’s worth of men and boys every year to senseless violence. This is an emergency.

Whitlock writes: Rather than whine about white folks’ insensitivity or reserve a special place of sorrow for rich athletes, we’d be better served mustering the kind of outrage and courage it took in the 1950s and 1960s to stop the white KKK from hanging black men from trees.

“But we don’t want to deal with ourselves. We take great joy in prescribing medicine to cure the hate in other people’s hearts. Meanwhile, our self-hatred, on full display for the world to see, remains untreated, undiagnosed and unrepentant.”

Columnist David Aldridge in Philadelphia said that Taylor’s status as a pro ball player made him no more special than other victims of black-on-black crime.

He is right.

Philadelphia is in the grips of a murder wave of black men and boys so terrifying that the police chief, who is black, helped organize in October a rally of 10,000 black men to help fight crime in their communities.

“We have buried 200 Sean Taylors this year,” Aldridge writes.

Les Brown said Wednesday that people are spurred to change when they say to themselves, “I’ve had it.”

He said that the late Rosa Parks had given up her bus seat before.

“I know she did,” Brown said. “I talked to her.”

But one day in 1955, Parks had had it. And a revolution was born.

Something in the way I hear people write and talk about Taylor tells me some black folks have had it. They’ve had it with the excuses.

They’ve had it with the self-hatred and nihilism within some segments of the black community, hatred so evident in gangsta rap. As positive rapper Talib Kweli put it: “We’re the only ones who call our women (the b-word).”

I understand the roots of the violence — the lingering effects of discrimination; unregulated guns; a flood of illegal drugs; and entrenched poverty.

But the forces from without will not change anytime soon.

Looking inward

Meanwhile, the change must come from within. That’s what any individual can do. That’s all any individual can do.

We need a revolution in thought. This is essentially what Brown is saying. This is what comedian Bill Cosby has been saying to black audiences to a mix of praise and sharp criticism.

Then there’s me. Am I doing all I can? In a word, no.

A couple of weeks ago, I told someone who works with the Find-A-Friend program I’d get involved. The program pairs mentors with at-risk youth, many of them black boys. It’s past time to make that call, and I will before you read this.

This story about Sean Taylor — all the thousands of Sean Taylors each year — has got to change.

And the change has to start somewhere. Why not here? Why not now?

Everything can be changed,” Brown said. “Everything.”

He is right.

Written by Myron Pitts

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