- The Washington Times - Friday, December 27, 2002

The photos of the sniper suspects continue to be splattered on news pages and in newscasts around the world. What Trent Lott said and what he meant continue to spin the news, spurring headlines about how wide an umbrella the Republican Party wields and whether the party of Lincoln holds an umbrella at all. Black Entertainment Television and its founder, Bob Johnson, continue to get grief for pulling the plug on that network's news programming. While each of those controversies are certainly worthy of running commentaries, there is a more profound problem that momentarily grabs attention: black-on-black violence.

The statistics demand our collective attention.

Homicide is the No. 1 cause of death for young black men, those between the ages of 15 and 24.

Homicide is the No. 2 cause of death for young black women, those between the ages of 15 and 24.

While cancer, diabetes and heart disease are claiming the lives of too many 25-to-44-year-old "brothers," many more are murdered by other blacks.

For black women 25 to 44, homicide is the fifth-leading cause of death.

Black Americans are six times more likely to be slain than whites.

In sum, 94 percent of black Americans slain between 1976 and 1999 were slain by (no drum roll, please) other black Americans.

Nothing on the news palette is more threatening and more urgent.

Indeed, the discontinuance of news shows on BET might mean a proliferation of stereotypical entertainment with young blacks dancing and singing and making merry like Christmas on videos. But that is our fault.

Mr. Johnson explained his unfortunate decision to Kojo Nnamdi, during a recent broadcast on WAMU radio: "As a businessman, when I look at businesses and programs that are not making money, I have to make a decision about … the interests of the shareholders … I have to ask how much money you want me to lose … I'm not in business to lose money."

That "BET Tonight with Ed Gordon" and "Lead Story" were money-losers cannot be blamed on white America. BET, like the clothier FUBU, was created for us and by us. That we preferred cheap entertainment vs. news-we-could-use is as revealing as Mr. Lott's tributory to Strom Thurmond.

But even Jim Crow pales against our willingness to be more distrustful of police than the killers, druggies and purse snatchers preying on our children and our neighborhoods.

D.C. Police Chief Chuck Ramsey, whose department is waging a losing battle with a high homicide-closure rate, says blacks won't even speak out against these thugs and killers. Even when there are thousand-dollar rewards involved, witnesses prefer to covet criminals. And, the irony of ironies is that we ask for halfway houses to be built in our already violent communities.

What happened, black America?

When did we lose our way?

Why do we prefer to shake our groove things instead of keeping up with current events and keeping our neighborhoods safe?

Why do we find more satisfaction in yakking about Trent Lott, who you wouldn't know if he were standing right next to you, than chatting up police about that gun-toting drug dealer who stands up the corner night and day?

Shouldn't we, as we did before integration, take better care of our own?

We don't have to wait and can't afford to wait for the so-called black leaders to crook their fingers our way. While the outspoken Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have stakes in what happens in our communities, their cloisters are not threatened. They have bodyguards. They don't have to walk to bus stops in the wee hours of the morning, just as the killers and thieves and prostitutes are turning in for the day. They don't have to worry about their children walking through alleyways littered with crack bags and used hypodermic needles, and they don't have to worry about their children stepping on used condoms on playgrounds, either. They're too busy juggling their scheduled TV appearances and frequent-flyer miles.

No, black America, curbing black-on-black crime is our urgent responsibility.

Look again at who's on the losing end this battle. It's not Trent Lott, or the Republicans or Democrats, for that matter.

So, as we celebrate this season, and pray for our families and world peace in the coming year, let's not forget that danger lurks on the homefront, too, and resolve to fight the good fight.

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