To hear the national outcry over the George Zimmerman verdict and the countless cries of “racism in this country,” you’d think that black people are killing white people and that white people are killing black people at an extraordinary rate.
It is true that in America, where in many states gun ownership is as pervasive as cable TV, there is an extraordinary amount of gun homicides. There were 11,078 deaths from firearms just in 2010.
But the real shocking thing, as J.J. Goldberg reported this week in the Forward, is that there was very little racial overlap in these deaths.
Specifically, 94% of black victims were killed by blacks, while 86% of white victims were killed by whites.
The raw numbers themselves are depressing. Of the 11,078 victims, 55% were black, although blacks represent about 13% of the national population; while whites, who represent 65% of the national population, accounted for 25% of homicide victims.
There’s no good news in any of this. Gun violence is reprehensible, no matter who dies, and no matter who does the killing. When you compare the U.S. to other countries in the Western world, you realize how our culture of gun violence is one of America’s least attractive traits.
Having said that, it’s one thing to bemoan these tragic deaths and it’s another thing to give them a racial slant-- as if the deaths were not tragic enough.
The loud voices across the country who have been yelling “racism” since the tragic death of Trayvon Martin—presumably because Zimmerman was white— should remember also to yell about the tragedy of thousands of blacks who die at the hands of other blacks. This would surely put a spotlight on an endemic problem that is crying out for smarter solutions.
I realize it’s a lot more dramatic and newsworthy when we have racial killings, but if saying the sober truth leads us to better solutions, then let's yell that truth.
I’m not saying, of course, that racism doesn’t exist in America.
What I’m saying is that this subject is explosive enough that the last thing we need right now is to throw more oil on the fire.
Especially when doing that distracts us from bigger fires.