Filed Under:  OpEd, Opinion

A ‘culture of violence’

27th March 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Edmund W. Lewis

After a series of multiple murders in the 7th Ward and eastern New Orleans, a visibly frustrated NOPD Supt. Michael Harrison attributed the city’s scourge of deadly encounters to a “culture of violence.”

While it may be true that there has not been enough of an effort to convey the wisdom and usefulness of peaceful conflict resolution, it is also true that part of the reason that conflict resolution has not been more widely used is because the Black masses in New Orleans are under unrelenting attack from local government agencies, so-called policy experts. business leaders and private groups who claim that they are committed to helping Black, Brown, working-class and poor families while their polices. practices and actions suggest otherwise.

When I hear the police chief and his boss on Perdido Street, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, blame the rise in violent crime and homicides on a “culture of violence,” it hits a raw nerve since any progress in the fight to lower the city’s murder rate is expeditiously attributed to the mayor’s favorite initiative, NOLA for Life.

When things don’t go as planned for the mayor and his spin doctors, they automatically blame the community, the very people who are most significantly impacted by the violence and the bloodshed, for their plight.

The thing is, either NOLA for Life is an effective tool for reducing the city’s murder rate and gun violence or it isn’t.

It’s just that simple.

Anything else is an attempt to trick the masses of this majority-Black city, visitors to the city and mainstream media organizations into believing that Black people who live here are defective and/or genetically and culturally disposed to misery, ignorance, crime, poverty and violence.

In between second-lines. perfectly orchestrated press conferences and public wobbling sessions, the mayor has continuously wrung his hands in frustration as if he can’t understand why his best attempts to save Black people and make himself look like a Marvel Comic Book hero fall flat.

NOPD Supt. Michael Harrison, even had the audacity to refer to people in violence-plagued neighborhoods as “those people.”

That is both offensive and unacceptable from a police chief who expects to protect and serve all segments of the population and make sure that the men and women of the NOPD treat civilians with respect and dignity.

The phrase suggests that the group of people being killed and/or doing the killing is fundamentally different from the rest of us. They are not.

The only thing that separates us from them is a very conscious effort on the part of local elected officials, policy experts and business leaders to determine who gets access to the resources all of us need to survive, grow and prosper and who doesn’t.

As I’ve written many times , violence can take many forms, from firing thousands of Black public school administrators, educators and other employees after Hurricane Katrina to building a new school for Black children atop a toxic landfill. Violence can mean turning a blind eye towards a private university like Tulane mistreating its cafeteria workers to taking elderly people’s homes away or making it impossible for tens of thousands of residents to return home to New Orleans after Katrina. Violence can mean refusing to “find” money for summer jobs for teens and a real job-training program but making sure there is plenty of money for Midnight Basketball. Violence can mean that the city’s wealthiest residents hide their money in tax shelters while controlling how the city’s public funds are spent.

Violence can mean running a highway through a historic Black community like Tremé or tearing down homes in a historically Black neighborhood in Mid-City to build a biomedical complex, Violence can mean treating local school children like guinea pigs and laboratory rats in the name of educational progress or treating charter school students like prison inmates. Violence can mean framing innocent people for murder, making sure that they can’t gain access to legal counsel or refusing to prosecute law enforcement officers who shoot and kill innocent and unarmed Black, Brown and poor people.

We live in a violent city in a violent state that is part of a violent nation. Every law, policy, practice and action is designed to send a loud and clear message to us that Black, Brown and poor people have no rights that whites are bound by law to respect.

What a violent culture…

This article originally published in the March 27, 2017 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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