‘Lord Forgive Me, but He Tried to Kill Me’: Proposing Solutions to the United States’ Most Vexing Racial Challenges
13 Wash. & Lee J. Civ. Rts. & Soc. Just. 3 (2016)
86 Pages Posted: 3 Mar 2017
Date Written: 2016
While great progress has been made in the United States in the past fifty years in connection with race relations, three critical issues continue to vex our nation. The United States, despite its progress, continues to struggle mightily with (a) the police killing of unarmed black men; (b) racially disproportionate mass incarceration; and (c) violent homicides of black men and boys. Nightly newscasts detail seemingly weekly killings of unarmed African American men by law enforcement officers. Mass incarceration, while plateauing in the last several years, continues to see millions of United States citizens incarcerated at rates unmatched by any other country in the world. Those incarcerated are disproportionately African American and Latino males jailed for non-violent drug and property crimes. Statistics show that African American citizens suffer 55 percent of all homicide deaths in the United States while making up just 13 percent of the population. In nearly every major city in the United States, African American males constitute 65 to 75 percent of those homicide deaths while often making up a small percentage of those cities’ populations. These homicide statistics are so dramatic, it appears that an epidemic is occurring in the U.S.
Twenty-five years ago, Ice Cube dubbed African American males an “endangered species,” and little has changed since that time to indicate that much is better. Young black men in the United States face an incredible risk of being killed, whether by law enforcement officers or each other, or if not killed, imprisoned. If a young black man is locked up, that prison bid is commonly understood to foreclose many later opportunities that upon release are necessary to lead a happy and healthy life.
Death or prison awaits an alarming number of young black men in today’s America. These dire circumstances are simply unacceptable in a developed and wealthy nation like the United States of America.
In examining and detailing the racial challenges that continue to vex the United States, it is never difficult to point to statistics and evidence that extrapolate the problem. What is difficult is proposing solutions and optimistic prognostications for what can be done to ease these racial tensions that cause our persistent racial difficulties in order to preserve and value the lives of young African American men and boys. This Article offers to do just that: propose solutions. The second section will provide evidence that we are indeed plagued by the three racial challenges articulated above. The third section will propose solutions and actions that can be taken to address and work to reverse these distressing racial realities. In proposing solutions, this Article will focus on myriad actions that can be taken, including legislative enactments, training initiatives, advocacy programs, and, in particular, local municipal programs as exemplified by the City of Fort Wayne, Indiana as engaged by the author. While not a panacea, each of the solution proposals carries with it the promise of easing and resolving many of the racial tensions and hostility that continue to plague United States citizens of color.
Keywords: Mass Incarceration; Police Killing of Unarmed Black Men; Homicide Rates; Private Prisons; War on Drugs; Cities United; Fort Wayne United; My Brother's Keeper; Social Justice; Explicit Bias; Implicit Bias
JEL Classification: K14; K42
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation