Black Violence And Concern Fatigue.


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An anti-violence rally in Dayton, OH.

Over at The Root, Keith Harrison resurrects a tired trope.

Where is the outrage in our community about all of those slain blacks, most of whom were male and a plurality of whom were under 25 years old? Where are the protest demonstrations? Where is our community’s message that the ongoing carnage is unacceptable?

Sabiyah Prince, a Washington, D.C.-based anthropologist whose specialty is African-American life and culture and who has worked with community organizations in Harlem and D.C., says that it’s easier to garner support when the foe represents power. “In a situation where a child walks to the store and a quasi-law-enforcement person can shoot and kill him and get away with it … that mobilizes people,” Prince says.

It would be nice, Prince says, for community groups to have the numbers of supporters who are speaking out and protesting about the Zimmerman verdict. “It would make it easier to get things accomplished,” she says.

It would also help to communicate to the world that every black life matters. It would help others perceive us as something other than the ridiculous stereotypes too often portrayed in mass media.

This genre of concern-trolling has been in full-bloom since the Zimmerman verdict: black people should turn their attentions to the crushing violence in their communities, but they sit idly by as their children are butchered.  Can Keith Harrison get an amen?

We’ve been down this road before. So let’s make this plain: To assert that black people simply shrug off the murders of their sons and daughters and cousins and best friends, that folks simply shake their heads and keep it moving is to assert that black people are constitutionally incapable of grief and outrage. It’s to assert, sideways, that black people aren’t fully human.

There’s a tremendous arrogance in the idea that someone who doesn’t have to navigate these dangers every day cares more about them than the people who live in their edgeless shadows. There was all that anger that surrounded the killings of Derrion Albert or Hadiya Pendleton — the latter’s death became such a major story in black communities that her funeral was attended by Michelle Obama. There are the annual antiviolence events, the sermons in churches and mosques meant to comfort and mobilize. There are the marches and the rallies and the after-school programs and the community center town-hall meeting, the makeshift memorials at streetlights and the t-shirts emblazoned with the face of some kid cut down too soon. The intimation of violence is a waking, quotidian concern that informs where and when and how folks can walk down the street; it literally defines the borders of people’s worlds. All of this is psychically taxing. People are fatigued from caring so much. But not caring isn’t a luxury they have.

But Keith Harrison doesn’t see this stuff on CNN, and so he argues that they don’t happen. (His Google don’t work or something?)  And curiously, he argues that their absence from the airwaves is the fault of the people in those communities and not that of the people who decide just what makes it onto their airwaves.



Gene "G.D." Demby is the founder and editor of PostBourgie. In his day job, he blogs and reports on race and ethnicity for NPR's Code Switch team.
  • alan carter

    Truth. I have “explaining this to knuckleheads” fatigue. smh

  • elaine

    am glad the subject came up…can’t help but wonder what would happen if we protested EVERY passing of a young person…maybe something would change.
    take care.

  • Bookstar

    Hi GD: Just saw this on a friend’s Facebook thread. I wrote a similar blog post to Keith Harrison’s article (which, beyond your excerpt, I have not read in full), but with a slightly different, more nuanced take–which is going from mourning in our community (no one in my neck of the woods is arguing that isn’t happening) to the same level of mass mobilization that demands a change in the socio-economic circumstances that allows these murders to continue to happen: I also wrote an entire novel trilogy abut the effect of this grief on a family and loved ones of the deceased, in order to open up a national dialogue on black to black violence (mind you, I started this book in the 90s). The first book will be published later this year: Also check out this video commentary from Michelle Alexander (which I saw after publishing my blog post)

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  • Amen!

  • *groan* The Guardian ran a column along the same lines. In addition to the writers, these publications should also be put on blast. In addition to being false, the “blacks don’t care about ‘black-on-black’ crime” argument is painfully unoriginal–especially in the case of The Root, which ran a similar post in December. -_-

  • Mike

    I think it’s important to be mindful of who is writing. The Root often writes pathetically misguided and poor articles so it really should come as no surprise. But I will say that perhaps we should be more nuanced in our disenchantment with the voices from The Guardian and see them for what they indeed are…an outside eye looking in on a foreign culture and making projections. Instead of getting frustrated maybe we should take that lens as how things get translated globally.

    I don’t necessarily think the narrative Harrison set up is entirely irrelevant. In some ways one could argue rather convincingly that in matters of policy especially there are plenty of blacks who don’t seem to care much about black on black violence outside of the rhetoric.

  • It’s more complex, of course, than fatigue. I think some people are waiting for a savior (leader[s]), some don’t know how, many of us don’t trust each other…and sadly, there would be required some very unpopular stances as well as actions.

    The social contract is null, the society in collapse. When people get tired enough, only then will they take control of their communities and themselves.

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