Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Does Harry Belafonte Need Factcheck?

A couple of days ago, at the NAACP Awards, Harry Belafonte said, “White America discusses the Constitutional issue of gun ownership, while no one speaks for the consequences of our racial carnage.”

Does Mr. Belafonte believe “white America” is responsible for the ever increasing murder rate of black Americans, as has been suggested?  I’m not sure why he would believe that unless he is totally clueless about murder rates in the country.  Or by “racial carnage” is he referring to black on black crime?  The sad truth is that most murders of black Americans are committed by other black Americans.  So Mr. Belafonte – which did you mean?

Walter Williams, a well-known African American economist, professor, academic, columnist and author, writes:

“Each year, roughly 7,000 blacks are murdered. Ninety-four percent of the time, the murderer is another black person. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, between 1976 and 2011, there were 279,384 black murder victims. Using the 94 percent figure means that 262,621 were murdered by other blacks. Though blacks are 13 percent of the nation’s population, they account for more than 50 percent of homicide victims. Nationally, black homicide victimization rate is six times that of whites, and in some cities, it’s 22 times that of whites. Coupled with being most of the nation’s homicide victims, blacks are most of the victims of violent personal crimes, such as assault and robbery.

The magnitude of this tragic mayhem can be viewed in another light. According to a Tuskegee Institute study, between the years 1882 and 1968, 3,446 blacks were lynched at the hands of whites. Black fatalities during the Korean War (3,075), Vietnam War (7,243) and all wars since 1980 (8,197) come to 18,515, a number that pales in comparison with black loss of life at home. It’s a tragic commentary to be able to say that young black males have a greater chance of reaching maturity on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan than on the streets of Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, Oakland, Newark and other cities.”

Ninety-four percent of the time the murderer is another black person.  That statistic alone should shock and terrify the African American community.  Most of the killings are in the inner cities and many are gang and drug related.  Some will say this is a result of the environment and in a way that’s true.  However, we are all products of our environment along with the personal choices we make.  Not everyone who grows up in the inner city and/or gang controlled parts of the city ends up being murderers and criminals.  Harry Belafonte was born and raised in Harlem and went on to be the first African American to win an Emmy award.  It’s about choices.

When a person kills another person with a gun it’s nearly always a choice.  Certainly there are accidents.  And when someone shoots another person in self-defense (as in a home invasion or burglary) they may not be intending to kill that person but merely incapacitate them.  But even that is a choice.  The fact is that most shootings in this country are committed intentionally, whether they are legal or illegal.  So to blame environment alone for gun violence would be wrong.

Mr. Belafonte is a man who made it big at a time in this country when racism was something that truly did hold black Americans down.  I’m sure he experienced it first hand on a regular basis.  However, to make blanket public statements that leave one wondering about his true meaning seems to be deliberate misrepresentation of the truth.  Mr. Belafonte is an intelligent and well-spoken man.  And this is not the first time he’s made controversial remarks concerning racism. 

The statistics concerning murder rates among black Americans are not only sad but reprehensible.  It’s as if the black community is slowly committing genocide of its own people.   And what’s the answer?  Certainly not more gun control laws.  Does anyone really believe that more laws will keep guns out of the hands of those who truly want them?  And if all civilian guns are somehow taken away and no one, not even the bad guys in the country, has a gun, then only the government will have them.  Ask anyone who survived Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union how that worked out.

I don’t have the answer for this.  I wish I did.  But celebrity activists who make controversial public statements just for effect don’t help the problem.  If Mr. Belafonte wants to stop the gun violence in the African American community maybe he should spend more time in the areas where it occurs, talking honestly with not only the victims of the violence but with the people who are committing it.  Think it’ll happen?

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