Stars and Stripes, and Black Folks

The first piece of information I received about the massacre in Charleston, South Carolina, was in bits and pieces of angry Facebook posts. This was on June 18th, 2015. Confused and alarmed by the mangled information flooding social media, I took it upon myself to read up on the pressing news. The first thing I typed into the Google search bar was, “Charleston shooting.” Within seconds I had myriad links to news articles, videos of news reports from the night before, and endless photos of the alleged suspect.

All it took was one link:

21 year-old white male, Dylan Roof shot and killed 9 black men and women around 9pm during the Wednesday night bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

My first reaction was genuine shock, then horror, then heaviness… Deeply disturbed by the news I felt an immense weight of sadness and hurt engulf me. Later that day, the weight of sadness left me distraught as I discovered an article on Facebook identifying the nine black men and women who were victims of the crime. This is when the low, curdling anger began to press me. “Any one of the people killed could have easily been me, or someone I know personally…”

That could have been me at my church.

This realization hit me sharply, mainly because it is true. I carried my sadness, disturbed-ness, anger, confusion, and deep disgust, into my thoughts early the next morning, June 19th. Deeply unsettled by the news of the shooting, I cried Friday morning sitting alone on a park bench, having a quiet time with God. Friday afternoon rolled around and I was still crying. Wanting to watch TV or paint my nails, or do any normal and “fun” Friday activity, I found that I was too upset to do anything.

That’s when I decided to make a video. I wanted to capture my thoughts and emotions in real-time as they were happening and share them. You will find tears, anger, confusion and honesty are all part of the video. I do not claim to be a “videographer” and I ask humbly that you, my reader, my viewer, watch it with an open mind.

Stars and Stripes, and Black Folks – The Video

Moreover, for the purpose of giving socioeconomic relevance to my thoughts and emotions recorded in the video, I sat down and researched facts and statistics that give clear, unbiased information about gun violence in America, over the last 10-20 years. Taking a microscope to my findings, I learned some chilling facts about the racial divide of gun violence in America. I will let the facts speak for themselves.

A warm-up:

1. According to a study conducted in association with the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 70% of all homicides and less than 10% of all nonfatal violent crime was due to gun violence from 1993 to 2011.

2. From 1993 to 2011, about 70% to 80% of firearm homicides and 90% of nonfatal firearm victimizations were committed with a handgun.

The ugly truth:

1. Males, blacks, and persons ages 18 to 24 had the highest rates of firearm homicide from 1993 to 2010.

2. Between 2000 and 2010, the death-rate due to gun-related injuries was more than 18.5 per 100,000 among blacks, but only 9 per 100,000 among whites. *In other words, the death-rate for gun-related injuries was more than twice as high for every 100,000 black people than the death-rate for every 100,000 white people.*

3. In 1993, African Americans were more than three times as likely to die from gun-violence than white Americans.

At the state and district levels, the gap in the rate of deaths due to gun-related violence is even further apart for blacks in relation to whites. My home state of New Jersey is a prime example.

4. In the state of New Jersey, black people are 4.5 times as likely to die from gun violence than whites.

At the socio-cultural level:

5. Whites are much more likely to use a gun to commit suicide. A white person is five times as likely to commit suicide with a gun as to be shot with a gun; for each African American who uses a gun to commit suicide, five are killed by other people with guns.


Based on these facts, it is clear that gun violence in America is irrefutably shaped by skin-color and the malignant historical implications that accompany it. To make things even more clear, because I am a black person, and am in the target age range of 18-24, I am twice as likely to die by gun-violence than any of my white friends.

In the end, what you chose to do with this information is entirely your choice. It is not my goal to shame people into changing their attitudes or beliefs about people of color, namely black people. The primary purpose of this post is to present to you my reaction to an act of racially motivated hatred and pair that with the reality of race-related gun violence in America.

If you would like more information on gun-violence in the U.S. or would like to verify the statistics I have provided please reference these links:

http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/4/9/e005628.full.pdf+html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/09/19/the-racial-divide-in-americas-gun-deaths/

http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?iid=4616&ty=pbdetail

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