Christian Living Relationships/Family

The New Klan: The Real Threat for Young Black Men

John Richards

My Facebook timeline and Twitter feed have been filled with commentary about the Michael Dunn trial. It’s becoming an annual event—as expected as the Olympic games, only more frequent. But there are no medals to be won. Just graves to be dug. Questions left unanswered. Parents left to grieve. Much of the Tweets and updates are about the controversial Florida “Stand Your Ground” law. Like an experiment of a “mad scientist” legislature, its passage, in some opinions, has meant open season on young, black men. It’s the culprit that claims victim after victim. [pullquote]In some ways, the law itself has taken on the profile of a serial killer—similar modus operandus and similar victims.[/pullquote]

Why I Mourn

Though I am a lawyer, I am not here to denounce the Florida law. That’s not my primary concern when it comes to young, black men. Don’t get me wrong, I mourn with the nation. I mourn with the parents of those young men whose lives were cut short in Florida. It’s a travesty.

I also mourn with a nation that finds on average about 6,500 blacks killed annually—most by other blacks. In our two most recent wars, spanning over a decade, there were about 8,000 soldiers killed—a truth that’s hard to swallow. But there were almost as many black lives taken in one year as the total death toll in two wars.

[pullquote position=”right”]In Chicago alone, there were 421 homicides last year. The locals call it Chi-raq, embracing the comparison to the conflict in Iraq.[/pullquote] They speak of war zones and battles like they are playing a wartime RPG on an XBox or Playstation. But there’s no reset button in this game. No extra lives. The end result? Cemeteries filled with young, black men. Gone too soon.

The New Klan

We’ve found the new Klan. Not in its ideology, but in its impact and fear. Over an 86-year period, there were close to 3,400 lynchings in the South—many at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan. [pullquote]In 2011, more than 7,000 blacks were killed in this country. Again, 86 years vs. one year.[/pullquote] The one-year total of black homicides is double the 86-year total of lynchings.

Blacks make up about 6.5% of the population, but almost half of the homicides. Black-on-black crime accounts for most of those homicides. [pullquote position=”right”]It looks like we’ve exchanged fear of hoods for fear of the hood.[/pullquote] We’ve gone from looking for black men to protect us from whites to looking for the government to protect us from black men. There’s a new nocturnal threat out there and it’s calling card isn’t a burning cross. Ironic, is it not?

We get squeamish when we see those iconic photos of our ancestors. Strange fruit hanging from southern trees. But the nightly news hardly moves us when a 15-year-old is brutally shot and killed in an inner city neighborhood. We’re unfazed when we see a dotted map of homicides in our city that are as numerous as the straight pins in grandma’s sewing needle pin cushion. We’re more concerned about hashtags than kid’s bodies being tagged by coroners. Are their lives not just as valuable? Why aren’t we as concerned about what’s going on every day in our own back yard?

Please Do Something

Last week, I did something I had long put off. I submitted an application to become a mentor for a young person here in Chicago. I found an organization I really believed in and decided to get off my lazy behind and actually do something. Sure, it might just be one kid. But it could make all the difference in the world for that one kid. It could preserve that kid from being squeezed by the noose that life in the inner city tells them is inevitable.

I’m not saying this as some savior figure wanting to go in and save the day. Just a man whose Savior did just that for him. And because Jesus saved me, I’m expected to serve others in humility and love. This is one way I’ve found to do it. If you are capable—especially if you are an older, black male—I implore you to do the same.

5 thoughts on “The New Klan: The Real Threat for Young Black Men

  1. Phillip Michael Holmes

    J Reed,

    Huge fan of them. My main mentor in college was a white guy. I write about it here:

  2. John C Richards Jr

    J Reed, I’m an “all hands on deck” kind of guy—regardless of race. It might be a bit more difficult (i.e. there are cultural differences that need to be overcome), but I know tons of good dudes doing some cross-cultural mentorship in urban environments. Honestly, that should be convicting for young, black professionals who avoid these kind of relationships (or should I say ignore them).

  3. John C Richards Jr

    Thanks George. Good to hear you and your wife are coming along side those already involved to see how you might help. Good stuff!

  4. george canady

    Thanks John for this. Some of us don’t know where to start but we know to start. “Please do something” is a plea that resonates with me. My wife and I have just recently started doing something to help those already involved in the community nearest to us who hopefully can help us learn how best to do something helpful. If we can just help serve the ones who are already there at work now…. I don’t know if this is best, but it’s my hope that God will show us right as we do.

  5. J Reed

    John, thank you man for this article. Stats put stuff into perspective quick. One quick question for you (Phillip and Jemar too): what’s your thoughts on cross-cultural mentorships?

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