One of the leading causes of death among young African-American males in the United States of America is firearms. Violent deaths have always been the producer of grief, and left many of communities paralyzed. This is a growing trend in the overall majority of African-American communities, a trend that must come to an end. The issue to be addressed is really note the gun-violence itself but the situations that lead directly to it.
There is also a growing trend in the African-American community of adequate education, unstable family life, depleted job opportunities, and social isolation. With no educational or vocational skills need to obtain a higher education or job opportunity in a community that do not have businesses outside of a fast food restaurant places these young men, and women, at a disadvantage. Because they lack the educational skill sets and work experience to compete for jobs have left those that lack a sports talent to turn to the streets for employment in illegal activities.
Now while we can analyze all the symptoms that lead to these illegal activities the major trend that is rising nation-wide among young males between the ages of 13 – 24 years of age is gun access. Events such as hearing guns fired, seeing someone shot, or being the target of a shooting, in research, was positively associated with higher rates of gun ownership (Shapiro, Dorman, Welker, & Clough, 1998). Behaviors, such as gang membership; selling drugs; robbery, assault, and battery; striking a teacher; crime convictions; and suspension or expulsion from school were all associated with handgun ownership (Callahan & Rivera, 1992). Violent behaviors when viewed as being beneficial are quickly developed as a method of gaining resources in an economically and socially deprived environment. The most common reason for carrying a gun is protection in the dealing of drugs; protection from disrespect; and protection from constant aggression and bullying.
Major Reasons for Gun Carrying
Drug Dealing. Guns are considered a necessary tool in the world of drug dealing just as saw is to a carpenter. Drug dealing can be a very lucrative business both financially and socially affording one plenty resources and accesses, but it comes with very high risks of police crackdowns, robberies, and assaults. Since drug dealers cannot seek protection from law enforcement agencies against aggression from rival drug dealers and others because of their illegal activities, guns are used in the protection of their precious commodity and revenue and becomes a great symbol of wealth, status, prestige, and power just as jewelry, cars, and clothes. Guns play a great role in turf combats played out on the streets of African-American communities where casualties are very high and senseless.
Disrespect. Guns and gun play, aka flossing, are common use when it comes to responses of blatant disrespect in the African-American community. While some cases of disrespect are mild and others are extreme, all forms of disrespect can lead to a gun or two being drawn when addressing the situation is escalated. The trouble is more with the rudeness and disregard for another’s person or property in as much as they feel totally violated and disrespected. This is troubling because it challenges the manhood of an individual leaving them scorned by their peers and cohorts. When events of disrespect occur there is a shift in power where the ‘Dis’d’ feels a need to balance out that shift -and fast, before others take it as an open invitation to do the same. There is an immediate need to save face and let others know that this behavior will not be tolerated without being addressed; give someone an inch today, tomorrow they’ll take a mile.
Bullying. The biggest cause for anyone to feel as if they have been stripped of their pride and dignity through the lost of respect is the constant accosting, tormenting, and aggression of others. Because bullying is an ongoing event that can last years without being addressed; the bullied will do all that he can in order to avoid the harassment and embarrassment associated with the stigma of being weak, will totally remove that bully from his life’s equation. Even though the use of a gun in the form of retaliation is extreme, but so is suicide.
As I look for a rational reason for the widespread gun violence in the African-American communities I cannot find one. As I look for a rational explanation for the widespread senseless gun-violence in the African-American communities I cannot help but to be reminded of the movie Juice (1992) starring Omar Epps (Quincy | Q) and the late Tupac Shakur (Bishop). The term ‘Juice’ stands to mean power, influence, and respect; which is the basis of the entire movie –how far will you go to get it.
In the movie when Raheem, played by Khalil Kain, handed the gun to Bishop, which he purchased from a family friend Sweets, played by Jacqui Dikerson, you can see the excitement on Bishops face and the immediate character transformation from the handling of the gun. Bishop had now become the man he wanted to be; someone with power and to be feared. When Bishop killed the local grocer Quiles, played by Victor Campos, Raheem felt it was a senseless act and demanded that Bishop return the gun. Bishop feeling that he would lose power and the respect of his other friends killed Raheem after a brief struggle for the gun. That feeling of power proved deadly when Bishop took the lives of three people and seriously injuring another until his own life was taken by the one person who was never afraid of him -gun or not, and that person was Q. And with that, came the statement, “you got the Juice now”.
Showing off is part of the territory in gun possession. Once in the hand, one tries to gather the right feel for the gun by holding it in various different positions; drawing it from a concealed place on the body, and even spinning it on their fingers. This act is referred to by some people as flossing. It gets a little more serious when the flossing turns to brandishing it into someone’s face, and arbitrarily shooting into the air above their head. It is this kind of gunplay that is responsible for many accidental deaths; where there no intended target. Some deaths attributed to flossing are self-inflicted.
Now that we looked at the reasons for gun carrying and its effects that are causing the gun-violence in the many of the Black/African-American communities we must examine and address the underlying issues of why one chooses to sell drugs; gangbang; disrespect, and bully another individual. What are the root causes that would lead a teenage boy to trade books for bullets; to choose jail than school? Guns, in and of itself, does not kill people; people kill people, whether it’s intentional or unintentional.
Black, Sally, and Alice Hausman. “Adolescents’ Views of Guns in a High-Violence Community.” Journal of Adolescent Research 23.5 (2008): 592-610. Web. 31 Jan. 2013.
Shapiro, J. P., Dorman, R. L., Welker, C. J., & Clough, J. B. (1998). Youth attitudes toward
guns and violence: Relations with sex, age, ethnic group, and firearm exposure. Journal of Clinical and Child Psychology, 27, 98-108.
Callahan, C. M., & Rivara, F. P. (1992). Urban high school youth and handguns: A schoolbased
survey. Journal of American Medical Association, 267, 3038-3042
YouTube “Juice (1992) full film” Web. 16 Feb. 2013.