Do Blacks Cheapen Black Life?

We devalue our own lives when we fail to speak out against black-on-black violence.

Screenshot from a video promoting an end to black-on-black crime. (YouTube)

Think we’re beyond that? Here’s what Zimmerman juror B-37 said during an interview Monday evening on CNN: Zimmerman’s “heart was in the right place … he went above and beyond what he should have done.” The juror said that none of the jurors thought Zimmerman racially profiled Trayvon or that race played a role in the tragedy. She believes that Trayvon was the aggressor and that he threw the first punch. Trayvon, she said, “got mad and attacked [Zimmerman].”

Glenn Ivey, a former head prosecutor in Prince George’s County, Md., and former federal prosecutor now in private practice, says the message that blacks are confronting violence in our neighborhoods is not being communicated now because the African-American community has become desensitized to killings.

“Our reluctance to take on homicides in our community is a mistake that we have to fight against,” Ivey says. “We need to strive to make sure that everyone inside and outside our community understands that the killing of our people cannot be tolerated, regardless of whether the killer is black, white or any race.”

This is not an either-or situation. Black communities need to find a way to muster the same emotions over the slaughter happening around us and by us. We should not rely on media attention to galvanize us. And we have to be willing to confront and bear witness against those in our communities who use violence. When and if we do, that message will get out.

Keith Harriston is a former reporter and editor at the Washington Post, where he covered public safety policy. He teaches journalism at Howard University, where he edits