In about 1991, I became very concerned by media reports about youth violence in the Black community allegedly related to drug gangs referred to as “narco-terrorists.” It was deeply disturbing because it meant a retreat or defeat of civil rights gains. I wanted to understand what was happening to Black youth & the Black community so I set out to investigate it.
It took me about seven months of studying using the new resources of the internet. There were no books written about it at that time. Using the internet, I went through media crime reports for 24 cities & what I learned was shocking & completely contradictory to the prevailing narrative in media. It was unmistakeable: the violence was not initiated by Black youth but was against them & gangs were not a substantial issue in most cities. In fact at that time, many police departments scoffed at the notion of drug gangs because they were not facing them as a problem. The drug war was imposed as policy on police departments.
When my article was first published in 1992 in a student journal at Harvard produced by two young men I worked with politically, most people thought I was nuts & writing apologetics for Black youth violence. When it was updated & published in 2007 in a Black community newspaper in Minneapolis, again it was treated with scorn by white progressives. But there was no doubt in my mind at all that there was a political war on Black youth to demoralize them & prevent them from organizing resistance to oppression. Since that time not only have other writers confirmed my analysis, including Michelle Alexander who wrote “The New Jim Crow” in 2010, but the Black Lives Matter movement makes it beyond dispute.
Now the homicide rates from the Black community in Chicago make it appear to be an exception & to be a “Black on Black violence” scenario. There have been 700 homicides so far this year, more than NYC & Los Angeles combined, & allegedly related to gangs & gun use. You can’t just accept that narrative without investigation. Impressions, speculations, rumors, prejudices about what is going on don’t cut it. There is a ruthless war on Black youth including violence, incarceration for minor offenses, economic misery. If you understand that then you need to examine the particular pressures & forms it takes in the city of Chicago. It just doesn’t happen in human society that a group of people in a particular ethnicity or city or neighborhood have extreme aggressions for no reason.
For those who would like to read the article on Black youth & gangs: