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Gun Violence — Impacting on Entire Generation of African Americans

african american gun violence

  • African American children and teens are more than eight times more likely to die from firearm homicide than their white counterparts

  • Firearm homicide is the leading cause of death for African Americans ages 1-44.

  • African Americans make up almost 13% of the U.S. population, but in 2014 suffered over 50% of all homicides.

If these statistics don’t bother you, they should. The African American population, especially young black males, is disproportionately affected by gun violence and despite some assumptions, the majority is not gang related. That means that an entire generation of young men have been adversely affected by exposure to violence even if they were not the actual victim. BCT Partners explores how poverty, access to firearms, and less attention by the media add up to lethal consequences.

Higher Poverty Rates

Most of the homicides in the United States occur in large urban areas many of which have substantial black populations. For example, of the 12,979 firearm homicides in the United States in 2015, 81% occurred in urban areas. And violence is even more heavily concentrated within the neighborhoods where blacks are most likely to live. In fact, statistics reported by the Philadelphia Police Department for 2014, show that in Philadelphia’s safest police district, which is approximately 85% white, no one was reported killed by gun violence. However, In the most violent district, with a roughly 90% black population, there were 189 shooting victims and 40 deaths. Concentrated violence also leads to slower growth in businesses and home value appreciation as well as a lower tax base decreasing funding to schools and ultimately making it harder to break the cycle of poverty and violence.

Lack of Gun Control

The proliferation of guns has continued to increase as the NRA fights at every turn to avoid any restrictions to access. The U.S. now has more guns than people. However, while African Americans are much more likely to be the victims of gun violence, they are much less likely to be a gun owner despite the stereotypes. In fact, white people are twice as likely to own guns compared to blacks and Hispanics. One other key factor that cannot be ignored in relation to the higher black homicide rate is due to the over-representation of shootings by police. Police brutality has led to a general distrust of the police which means less cooperation between law-enforcement and the citizens they are supposed to protect.

Skewed Media Coverage

And while gun violence perpetrated against African Americans is much higher than their white counterparts, the media coverage is still often lacking or skewed. Many of the stories perpetuate the myth that gun violence in inner cities is primarily due to gang violence which is not accurate. In addition, when white children are killed, they are referred to as innocents but when black children are killed the insinuation is that they or their relatives were involved with drugs or other crimes and that their exposure to violence was somehow to be expected. In a study published in 2014 by the Journal of Black Studies they found “that the media often framed racial and ethnic minorities as the primary perpetrators of crime, thereby compromising the public’s ability to associate minorities with the role of victim.” Gun control advocates also get more coverage after an incident involving whites (such as in mass shootings) than they do when they are talking about ongoing violence in primarily black communities. The perpetuation of stereotypes and the attitude that somehow one life is more valuable than another makes it harder to address the fundamental reasons why violence is higher in certain communities.

In summary, gun violence in our country has escalated precipitously for all Americans over the last two years. However, in a report that details Black Homicide Victimization in the United States, it is clear that gun violence is still disproportionately affecting the black population. The report states, “The devastation that homicide inflicts on black teens and young adults is a national crisis, yet it is all too often ignored outside of affected communities.” Both the general public and policy makers need to be educated about the issue and we all need to do something about it. The future of an entire generation of young Americans depends on it.

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