Dear President Brown:
The death of Michael Brown is only one of the latest in a long line of killings of unarmed black men by vigilantes and police officers. In many cases, police officers and private citizens who have shot and killed black men have been investigated, but rarely has justice been served by their conviction when convicted prison sentences seldom reflect the gravity of their crimes.
Black males continue to be at risk of racial profiling and police and vigilante harassment and murder. At the same time, there continues to be an epidemic of crime against black men. Because the overwhelming majority of homicides of blacks are committed by other blacks, the nation has conveniently labeled this appalling epidemic a “black problem” that must be solved by a putative “black community” that is conveniently conjured into existence. This reaction is a manifestation of continuing racism in America.
When white males commit mass shootings, no one labels this form of violence the manifestation of a white male problem to be solved by white males coming together and taking responsibility for their actions. When an emotionally ill young man killed school children in Newtown, Connecticut, no one thought to call the crime a Newtown problem to be solved by that community taking ownership of its deficiencies. The labeling of black on black crime as a black problem is one more manifestation of the continuing segregation of black people in America and the persistent refusal of this country to regard black Americans as “one of us.”
The rise in black crime since the late 1960s was created by growing and continuing high levels of unemployment and underemployment of black men, changes in family and community dynamics and the personal and cultural trauma of racism and sexism. These problems are America’s problems. Their solutions go far beyond the capacity of “the black community” to solve them. Black people have always addressed the issues of crime against blacks, but a national initiative is needed to solve the problem. This situation is intolerable in a nation that proclaims its commitment to justice and human rights as it pours billions of dollars into bringing “democracy” to other countries.
As the focal point of enormous global national and local resources, intellectual, material and emotional, the university has a vital role to play in addressing the national problem of violence directed against black males either by law enforcement officers, vigilantes or other blacks. The University can take the lead in initiating national action to address the crisis of black male victimization. I call upon the presidents of all area colleges and universities to take the following steps:
- To declare a university day of mourning and study devoted to meditation on the tragedy of young black life terminated by violence and to study of the crisis of black male victimization.
- To send a collective call to our Congressional delegation to vigorously pursue Congressional hearings on the crisis of black male victimization.
- To launch research and policy initiatives on the Crisis of black male victimization including its psychological, emotional, political and economic dimensions.
- To launch recruitment programs aimed at bringing lower income and at risk black males to your colleges and universities, with full financial support, even when their academic performance does not meet normal admission criteria. The admission of such degree candidates would have to be supported by effective academic support programs focused on ensuring their successful academic performance. Such academic support programs exist and are successful at numerous universities around the nation.
- Finally, collaborate in launching and running a campaign to educate the local, national and global communities about the crisis of violence against black males and to counteract the continuing racism against blacks at home and abroad and racist perceptions of black people.
Ronald. K. Richardson, PhD
Associate Professor of History