Politics & Policy

The War Against Black Men

Chicago police at a crime scene, April 8, 2011
Chicago’s murder statistics tell a story of young black males without fathers and at risk.

The date was January 12, 2013. You probably didn’t hear about this tragedy involving guns and two teenage boys. But this was the headline in the Chicago Tribune: “Boys, 14 and 15, killed in separate shootings Friday.” You didn’t hear about it because such events aren’t news in Chicago. They’re ordinary daily occurrences. As we continue to hear calls for ever-tightening gun laws from the Obama administration, and from states such as New York, it is worth thinking about those headlines in Chicago. And in inner cities all around America, places where strict gun laws are already in place. Places where the weapon of choice isn’t an AR-15 but a semiautomatic handgun — the same kind of weapon most Americans use reasonably, and safely, to secure their most precious assets: their loved ones and their property.

#ad#So let’s go back to that wretched January 12 story from Chicago, President Obama’s hometown. The murdered 14-year-old had a name, Rey Durante. He was gunned down by two shooters while standing on the porch of his Humboldt Park home. The two men opened fire, according to news accounts, near midnight, striking him multiple times in the chest.

When paramedics arrived on the scene, he was lying just inside his home, bleeding from several bullet wounds. He died there. Police found blood all over the front steps and more than half a dozen shell casings on the sidewalk. He would have turned 15 in a few days, his stepmother told reporters.

On the sidewalk near the crime scene, a local paper reported, the father of one of the boy’s friends cried as he paced near a group of teenagers. When a neighbor asked him what had happened, his response was simple — and heartbreaking.

“A little boy just got murdered,” he said.

Earlier that same day, a 15-year-old boy named Victor Vega was approached by a gunman in the Chicago neighborhood known as Little Village. The gunman shouted a gang slogan and then opened fire, striking the 15-year-old in the torso. Vega was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 7:19 p.m., according to the office of the Cook County medical examiner.

Both shootings were gang-related, police suspected.

Twenty children and six adults were killed in Newtown, Conn., last month, and the media quickly, and justifiably, descended to tell the tragic story. In the first few weeks of January in Chicago, 25 people have already been murdered. Most were young black and Hispanic men, murdered by other young black and Hispanic men.

In Chicago, it’s Newtown every month. But the media haven’t converged on Chicago this month.

You don’t know the names of those kids and adults gunned down in Chicago this January, all by handguns. But the Chicago Tribune’s RedEye website tracks the Chicago body count since January 1: Gregory Bady, 28; Damian Barnes, 22; Marcus Wallace, 23; Tyrone Soleberry, 39; Brian Cross, 34; John Taylor, 23; Darville Brown, 24; Tyshawn Blanton, 31; Marcus Turner, 19; Lavonshay Cooper, 22; David Bartzmark, 25; Michael Kozel, 57; Ulysses Gissendanner, 19; Kevin Jemison, 29; Myron Brown, 30; Devanta Grisson, 19; Octavius Lamb, 20.

You don’t know the names of the other 530 young people, most of them minorities, who were killed in Chicago between 2008 and January 2012 either. You don’t know their names, and the national media haven’t parked their media trucks in Chicago, because the liberal narrative does not offer easy answers to the problems haunting Chicago.

You don’t know their names because the real racism that exists in the media is this: A young black male’s life is not worth reporting when it is taken by another black male.

You don’t know the names because the media don’t or can’t blame the deaths in Chicago on a weapon like the AR-15, or on the NRA.

You don’t know their names because the media aren’t interested in getting at the real cause of much of the senseless gun violence in America: fatherlessness.

About 20,000 people live in my hometown of Oxford, Miss., and there are probably twice as many guns. Folks own handguns, shotguns, rifles, and all kinds of weapons I’ve never even heard of. But I can’t remember the last murder story in the local paper.

That’s because my town has lots of guns, but lots of fathers, too.

Chicago doesn’t have a gun problem; it has a father problem.

Gun control isn’t the problem on Chicago’s streets; self-control is.

When young men don’t have fathers, they don’t learn to control their masculine impulses. They don’t have fathers to teach them how to channel their masculine impulses in productive ways.

When young men don’t have fathers, those men will seek out masculine love — masculine acceptance — where they can find it. Often, they find it in gangs.

In my little town, if some boys tried to form a gang and do violence on our streets, the fathers wouldn’t bother calling the sheriff. Those boys would face a gang of fathers hell bent on establishing order in our community. And if that meant using physical force, so be it.

Back in 2005, William Raspberry, the late Washington Post columnist and no conservative, wrote “The Elephant’s Tale,” a column on inner-city black fatherlessness.

It turns out that, some years before, game managers in South Africa had had a problem with an elephant herd at Kruger National Park. It was growing beyond the park’s ability to sustain it. The experts came up with what they thought was a brilliant two-phase solution: They moved some of the herd to the Pilanesberg game park and killed off some of the elephants that were too big to transport.

#page#But that decision had ramifications. Years later, some of young males started attacking Pilanesberg’s herd of white rhinos, an endangered species.

Raspberry described the problem, and the solution:

The elephants used their trunks to throw sticks at the rhinos, chased them over long hours and great distances and stomped to death a tenth of the herd — all for no discernible reason.

Park managers decided they had no choice but to kill some of the worst juvenile offenders. They had killed five of them when someone came up with another bright idea: Bring in some of the mature males from Kruger and hope that the bigger, stronger males could bring the adolescents under control.

To the delight of the park officials, it worked. The big bulls, quickly establishing the natural hierarchy, became the dominant sexual partners of the females, and the reduction in sexual activity among the juveniles lowered soaring testosterone levels and reduced their violent behavior.

The new discipline, it turned out, was not just a matter of size intimidation. The young bulls actually started following the Big Daddies around, yielding to their authority and learning from them proper elephant conduct. The assaults on the white rhinos ended abruptly.

#ad#Fathers matter. And though it is possible for a young man to get along without a father, it is difficult for young men to get along in fatherless communities, or in fatherless cities.

So why don’t the media focus on the epidemic of fatherlessness in our inner cities and on the tragic consequences for boys? The mostly white liberal editors and gatekeepers of the mainstream media would never admit that liberal policies of the 1960s have had disastrous consequences. They won’t admit that government can’t replace the essential role that marriage and family plays in raising, disciplining, and loving children.

Those same white liberal editors also assume that such stories won’t draw ratings or readers, especially not from a white majority insulated from the problems of inner-city life.

And that assumption may be correct.

In a column last year in the Wall Street Journal, Juan Williams cited a comprehensive study by the Justice Department in 2005 on the subject that he said should have been a “clarion call” for the black community and the nation at large.

Almost one half of the nation’s murder victims that year were black, and a majority of them were between the ages of 17 and 29. Black people accounted for 13 percent of the U.S. population in 2005. Yet they were the victims of 49 percent of all murders, and 93 percent of black murder victims were killed by other black people.

That’s right. Almost half of murder victims in the entire country are black males and, all too often, young black males. And nine out of ten of those young black men were killed by other young black men.

So much for the war on women, a narrative the media sold relentlessly in the run-up to the November election. The real war in America is on men, and black men in particular.

Men need fathers, and need them desperately, but the out-of-wedlock birth rate in black America is 75 percent.

Fewer than half of young black men graduate from high school, and for far too many black boys public schools are jails before they get to real jails. Young men staring down such bleak prospects are young men without hope. And young men without hope can do desperate, senseless things.

That we are still not properly talking about this all-too-real race problem in America is a failure of imagination and conscience.

That the media have spent so little time on the body count in Chicago and other inner cities in this country is sheer malpractice.

Yes, the senseless murder of those children in Newtown was a tragedy of epic proportions, and our prayers should go out to every affected family and to all of their loved ones.

But white kids in suburbia are not getting gunned down with regularity. White suburban kids live, for the most part, on safe streets, free of gangs and drug dealers.

White suburban kids go to public schools that work, and work because having two parents matters when it comes to schools and the culture of schools.

The nation is still grieving the loss of those innocents in Newtown, and a nation continues to lift that community up with our prayers.

But while you are praying for the families in Newtown, say a prayer for all of the thousands of young black Americans whose lives were cut short by street violence. Say a prayer for the faceless, voiceless victims we never hear or read about or see on TV.

Say a prayer for all of those young black men without fathers.

And with the out-of-wedlock birth rate recently passing the 40 percent mark for all Americans, say a prayer for all of those young American men without dads.

Because they’ll need them.

— Lee Habeeb is vice president of content at Salem Radio Network.

Lee Habeeb — Lee Habeeb is an American talk-radio executive and producer. He has written columns for USA Today and the Washington Examiner, and is a columnist for Townhall.com and National Review.

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