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Tuesday, January 19, 2021

‘Homicides: A product of systemic racism and a public health crisis’

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Black people are killing each other due to systemic racism and state government has a responsibility to dismantle these systems they sustain with policy inaction. 

White people kill white people, Latinx people kill Latinx people — basically a lot of crime occurs intra-racially due to proximity. 

But I love Black people and I’m concerned about the scale of our dying, how it is occurring and the lack of engagement by state leaders. 

Allow food apartheid to develop through a failure to act. Restrict communities from “banning the box.” Give any community schools that fail to teach children of their greatness and potential. Allow redlining to occur across the state. Maintain lax gun control laws. Allow companies to offer un-livable wages.  

State violence doesn’t just wear a police uniform. 

As data is the language of policy, we must define its meaning ourselves so that we can achieve our policy outcomes.  

We know Black homicide numbers are higher than other groups, but they are second only to the situation where a Black person is killed, and by the end of the year police don’t have a suspect or assailant. 

We know the homicide numbers are horrific so I will spare you that. 

Racists will look at the numbers and make racist conclusions. Racists have had too much influence on how we even talk about this problem so they will get no support here. 

Loving Black people means you are concerned about our escalating homicides in our community and asking where is our justice given the large number of unknown assailants in our community? 

Loving Black people may also mean questioning whether or not known “assailants” are rightfully convicted. I get that. I’m there. 

Loving Black people also means considering what happened. What got the victim killed and what got the assailant to the point where they took someone’s brother, father, uncle and increasingly sister, mother, aunt from our community?

Loving Black people can also mean not wanting to talk about this now, even though the city has hit 100 homicides earlier than any other point in its history, and the vast majority of the people dying are Black. 

This macabre fact is why we must have this difficult conversation — even as we fight on other fronts. Again, racists don’t get to control any aspect of the Black community including why we love Black people by fighting for police reform. 

Of the 255 non-fatal shooting victims this year, 195 are Black people. There have been 33 Black women and girls who have been shot in this city. That trauma ripples through our community exponentially. 

Black people care when Black people are shot or killed. 

Some of us want to say poverty pulled the trigger. Hunger pulled that trigger. I get that. 

The fact that technically there are more white people living in poverty in Indianapolis than Black people and the Latinx poverty rate is higher than ours (32% compared to 26%), won’t seem like a challenge to the view that poverty induced violence is driving this slow-moving genocide in our community. 

Afterall, whiteness is its own form of currency. Black poverty is also different with legacies going back to slavery and Jim Crow. 

Some might say anger at an oppressive system that trains Black people to hate Black people pulled the trigger that ended the life of another Black person. 

Mental health is implicated in trying to fight all of the systems arrayed against Black folks. 

I’m sympathetic to these positions — to a point. 

Systemic racism produces Black poverty and white supremacy, and the latter is a form of terrorism that is genocidal and can’t just be treated like crime.  

Even as we know personal accountability has to be somewhere in the decision to kill — put white people in the same position as Black people have been in for 400 years and see if there are any differences in underlying health conditions, economic realities, homicide rates, etc. 

Indiana has been in the Top 10 for Black people dying for nearly a decade because systems were designed to produce this outcome. 

It’s past time Gov. Holcomb declare homicides in Indianapolis a product of systemic racism and a public health crisis. 

The legislature hasn’t passed laws to address food deserts and they created an inequitable school funding formula. State government shut down our mental health hospitals.  

State government is on the hook for criminal justice and police reform. 

Indiana state government constantly meddles in Indianapolis affairs and is just as responsible as local government for the development of systemic racism in Indianapolis over time and so must be held accountable for dismantling these life robbing systems. 

What I’m hearing …

Has the IMPD Accident Review Board regularly convened in the last four or five years? This board assesses whether an officer or a citizen is at fault in a traffic incident. By not convening this board the city may be picking up the tab for reckless driving of IMPD officers. 

And finally an interesting development — multiple elected officials have expressed interest in the idea of having citizens on IMPD’s general orders committee.

Marshawn Wolley is a lecturer, commentator, business owner and civic entrepreneur. Contact him at marshawnwolley@gmail.com.

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