Half of Murder Victims are Black Men


            It was at a Martin Luther King Day parade in Baton Rouge, La. in 1998.  Two Southern University students attended the parade hoping to see their favorite high school bands perform in this annual event. 

What started as a simple argument over an old high school rivalry ended tragically, as two lives were changed forever.  One student lay dead on the Baton Rouge streets while the other student laid on a jail cot on death row convicted of murder.

How could two lives with so much promise end so suddenly over something so foolish? Unfortunately, it happens everyday in cities throughout the United States, and even more so in the Black community.

In 2005, African American men made up almost half of the nation’s murder victims, although Blacks are only 13 percent of the U.S. population, according to the Associated Press.

“The mixture of illegal drugs, easy access to handguns and young men who feel locked out of economic opportunity is what these statistics reflect,” said National Urban League President Marc Morial.

Statistics from the Justice Department also reveal that other African Americans killed 93 percent of African American murder victims.  Conversely, other White people killed almost 85 percent of White murder victims.

Nevertheless, the number of Blacks slain dropped from 10,400 in 1995 to almost 8,000 in 2005.  Murder has also declined amongst people of all ethnic groups during that time-period.  However, the murder rate for Black men rose from 6,342 in 2004 to 6,783 in 2005 and the murder rate for White men increased from 5,769 in 2004 to 5,850 in 2005.

            The statistics provided by the Justice Department and the A.P. also indicate that 51 percent of Black murder victims were in their late teens and twenties.  Just 37 percent of White murder victims were between ages 17-29.

            The outlook is especially grim as the likelihood of being murdered increases for Blacks who have never been married, poor Blacks, and Blacks living in major cities.

            Major cities have increased their police presence in areas that are prone to violence and anti-gang task forces reassembled to combat this deadly cycle throughout the country.

            For the young men in Baton Rouge, La., violence ended what could have been a successful and distinguished adulthood on a day celebrating an icon who championed the nonviolence movement.  The legacy that King left behind should be an example of what African Americans can achieve when they use their hearts and not a handgun.

Cornelius is a writer for Regal Black Men’s Magazine.

Leave a Reply