Newark Killings: Shame On Us

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The harsh truth is that many of these “knucklekeads" and "savages" as Black-skin-white masks have labeled them are products of our failures as a society. We have failed them as much as we failed their victims.

[Speaking Truth To Empower]

The murders of three Black teens in Newark are symptomatic of a larger problem of violence in America and it will take much more than tough-talk “law and order” platitudes to get this national scourge under control, notwithstanding the arrest of the six suspects in the case.

Eighteen-year-old Melvin Jovel was charged Saturday in the August 4 execution-style killings of Iofemi Hightower, 20, Dashon Harvey, 20 and Terrance Aeriel 18. Jovel was caught a day after Nicaraguan brothers Rodolfo Godinez, 24 and his 16-year-old half brother Alexander Alfaro were arrested in the Washington D.C. area. Three other suspects, two juveniles along with 28-year-old Peruvian Jose Carranza, an illegal immigrant, were already in custody.

The murders set off a firestorm of anger, as it should. The murder of anyone in society should be deemed unacceptable; part of the problem is that the lives of some, especially minorities, is seen as expendable. An environment of carnage is allowed to fester.

Some have decried the fact that these were “good” kids who were either in or college-bound. But should we only care about those kids who are well adjusted and accomplished? Isn’t the social dichotomy that says that some kids are “throwaways” part of the problem? While it may or may not apply strictly in this particular instance, isn’t it possible that those we regard as more “accomplished” and “worthy” are consequently singled out by those whom we have deemed “throwaways” in our society?

Political arsonists have hijacked the tragedy for personal agendas. Commentator Lou Dobbs, a regular immigrant-basher has done stories on his CNN show highlighting the fact that Carranza is an illegal immigrant. Dobbs has used this as evidence to “prove” one of his pseudo premises: illegal immigrants are driving up crime statistics.

However, let’s keep this in perspective—according to the Bureau of Justice: between 1976 to 2005, Blacks—who represent a mere 12 percent of the population—made up a disproportionate number of the victims of homicide in America, at 47 percent. They were killed by other Blacks 52 percent of the time. Whites killed Blacks in 46 percent of the cases.
So Dobbs is just trying to muddy the waters by injecting his anti-immigrant views into an epidemic that has been a national disgrace for sometime.

Newark’s crime problems—as in much of the nation—are rooted in the economic deprivation of communities which have been abandoned by the political establishment. The welfare of poor people is the lowest national priority. For years jobs in Newark have continually declined, especially, since the large manufacturing base has steadily evaporated along with the hopes, dreams and aspirations of large segments of the community. Is there any wonder then that many youth turn to gangs and crime?

If anything is to come out of the cold-blooded Newark killings, we must resolve to fight the real causes of the bloodletting that plague our streets. At present, many in the larger society are more outraged about the Michael Vick dog-fight sponsorship and cruelty to dogs case.

Instead of looking for ways to create opportunities and empower young people with other avenues to fashion and sustain a sense of purpose, some have proposed draconian methods that will gain no positive results.

Ironically, some of these commentators—who wear Black skin and should know better—are demanding that Newark Mayor Cory Booker throw caution, as well as due process, to the wind in order to send a message to the “thugs” that a “no-nonsense” sheriff is now in town. Yet, aren’t these cowboy tactics already being used by some Police forces everyday in our community to the detriment of our people, with no meaningful results? And when we give the police carte blanche to trample upon the rights of those whom we view with fear, will that really make us safer? When another unarmed Black man is pumped with 41 or 50 shots whom will we blame then?

The harsh truth is that many of these “savages” and “knuckleheads,” as Black-skins have labeled them are products of our failures as a society. We have failed them as much as we failed their victims. Most of these people could have been productive members of our communities; many of us gave up on them and now we are reaping the whirlwind and no amount of phony rhetoric will change that or make us any “better” than them. 

Benjamin is a member of The Black Star News's Editorial Board

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