Will We Ever Improve Our Method Of Discussing Crime In Black Communities?

Americans demonstrate a troubling willingness to blame the victims of violent crime.
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In 2014 there were 6,095 black homicide victims in the United States as reported to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports Supplementary Homicide Report. More than eight out of 10 of these victims were killed with guns. Gun violence in the United States affects us all―99 people die in gun homicides, suicides, and unintentional shootings each day in our nation but black Americans continue to be disproportionately impacted by firearms homicide.

My organization, the Violence Policy Center, recently released the 11th edition of our annual study Black Homicide Victimization in the United States. Our report found that in 2014 the national black homicide victimization rate was four times higher than the overall national homicide victimization rate and six-and-a-half times higher than the homicide victimization rate for whites.

Broken out by gender, the divide becomes even more stark: black males are eight times more likely to be murdered than white males. Black females are three times more likely to be murdered than white females.

African Americans comprise only 13 percent of the U.S. population, yet account for 50 percent of all homicide victims. In cases where the weapon was identified, 83 percent of victims were killed with a gun.

When the issue is gun homicide―especially in communities of color―there is all too often a default willingness to blame the victim, falsely asserting that those who died by gunfire were most likely involved in criminal activity. Not surprisingly, the data say otherwise. Our study shows that for homicides in which the circumstances could be identified, 71 percent were not related to the commission of any other felony. Of these, 50 percent involved arguments between the victim and the offender.

Our report also details black homicide victimization rates state by state. In 2014, Missouri had the highest black homicide victimization rate in the nation, 34.98 per 100,000: a rate more than double the national black homicide victimization rate. In fact, Missouri has ranked either first or second in the nation for black homicide victimization for the past eight years that we have released the study.

Below is a chart showing the 10 states with the highest black homicide victimization rates in 2014:

Each year with disheartening regulatory, our report reveals the devastating and disproportionate impact homicide, almost always involving a gun, has on black men, boys, women, and girls in America. These deaths devastate families and traumatize whole communities. The goal of our study and the information contained in it is to not only help educate the public and policymakers, but also aid community leaders already working to end this grave injustice.

You can keep up with the Violence Policy Center’s latest research, public education, and advocacy activities by visiting www.vpc.org, following us on Twitter, or joining us on Facebook.