In the past several months, cities across America have experienced a dramatic increase in violence caused by guns and by motor vehicles used as weapons. Today, I question the inadequate response of law enforcement in investigating the crimes committed and determining who is responsible for the crimes in densely populated communities.
In the aftermath of the protests against racialized policing following the highly publicized deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and the highly publicized appeals during 2020 to reform policing in America; we witnessed angry rebuttals to citizens’ complaints from police unions across America. During the volatile political season of 2020 we saw paid advertisements, typically opposing Democrat candidates, that predicted a surge in violent crimes in our cities against innocent citizens, children, and the elderly. No scientific research supported those vile predictions. Nevertheless, conservative politicians supported by police unions promulgated those theories and repeated them often and continue to do so to this day. In the aftermath of the 2020 General Election, the deadly January 6 insurrection by White nationalists on the United States Capitol, and the increase in public activity thanks to vaccinations, we have also witnessed an explosion of violence in major cities across America, such as Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Detroit, and many others.
Conservative pundits are quick to argue that violent crime is exactly what happens when you defund the police, although most police departments have not been defunded. Local news outlets, joined by a chorus of community activists, faith leaders, local politicians and even the police have gravitated to unfounded rhetorical claims that generalize about the violence we are witnessing with unsupported cliches such as, “more black-on-black violence, too many guns on the streets, all these guns in the hands of the wrong people, and Black people just out here killing each other, etc.” I am urging us to halt to this rhetoric until we have evidence that explains the causes and the culprits behind the violence we are witnessing.
You will have to do the research in your own cities, but in many instances, we are not seeing arrests of the persons responsible for the crimes, despite the bountiful number of resources invested in surveilling inner cities and communities of color. Here are just a few of my observations and questions that should be of concern for others:
- There is no historical precedent in the USA for violent murders on the part of black people that lack any motive (a motive would be gang violence, or drug deals gone bad).
- What explains the sudden and dramatic increase in violent crime in communities of color in the aftermath of the pandemic and the season of racial reckoning in America?
- If the culprits belong to the communities where the violence is occurring, how are they getting the guns, firepower, and ammunition?
- With all of the surveillance cameras in Black communities, why are there not more images of Black shooters?
- We can document historically that Black people are not the only persons who kill Black people. Others motivated by racial hatred, bias and discrimination are also responsible for the deaths of Black Americans.
- We have seen also seen a dramatic increase in instances of violence perpetrated by Whites against law enforcement, government officials, and communities of color that have employed guns and even motor vehicles as weapons. Why are those stories of violence reported as though they are unrelated to the increase in violence in inner cities?
It is also troubling that despite inadequate investigative work on the part of law enforcement about the causes of the violence, we are inundated with proposals from police and conservative social commentators about what needs to be done in response to the violence and urging increased funding for police, the election of more conservative prosecutors and judges, tougher prison sentences for violent offenders, which include restricting their freedoms, increased mass incarceration, and the termination of voting rights.
I will close this commentary for now, and I urge all concerned citizens, faith leaders, community activists, the news media, public officials, and the police to stop making baseless public assessments about the cause of the violence, and to demand a critical assessment and thorough assessment of what exactly is going on, and who are all the culprits responsible for the dramatic increase in violence on the streets of America?
Dr. Jeffrey Haggray
American Baptist Home Mission Societies