Are We Killing Ourselves?
There has been much discussion recently about the loss of life in the Black community because of the overaggressive, if not fearful actions of the police departments. Too many instances of death at the hands of those who are empowered by the state to protect us have led to the proper conclusion that many of these deaths are unjustified. The Black Lives Matter movement has risen in protest to this high rate of death at the hands of police when compared to those observed in the general population. Indeed, “all lives matter” but it seems that the loss of life of Black people deserves special attention.
We must also be concerned about other factors that make our community less safe. The amount of violence that we must face attests to the influence that gangs and drugs have in our neighborhoods. This twin scourge is exacerbated by easy access to weapons and the arcane policy toward the mentally ill that makes it difficult for a community without the control of resources or policy to influence either. The devastation of poverty creates challenges for those under employed, welfare dependent, or unemployed due to felony convictions or lack of preparation for the available jobs. We are left with a community where targeting, over-enforcement, fear, apathy, or just plain bad policing create an area that seems helpless to respond to conditions that make it a less desirable place.
We are also affected by personal choices in what we eat. Many of our communities have been classified as “food deserts” indicating a lack of access to food stores or farms necessary to keep the area healthy. The incidence of high blood pressure, diabetes, and low birth weight give an indication that our habits and food choices are limiting the life of African Americans. Some of this is economic. Poor people buy what they can afford. So what if it contains too much salt, or too much fat; at least we are still eating. Would you rather we die of starvation? I think it’s possible to eat healthily and affordably - we must, at least try. We cannot continue to make choices in diet that make us less healthy even if the food is “good”. What is good to you may not be good for you.
Our communities are often the repository for development that others communities will not accept. The placement of prisons and landfills for “economic development” are indicative of the burden that poor communities must suffer. It does not take a Flint, Michigan to know that poor communities are neglected in a way that would be unacceptable to the larger society. This “environmental racism” has long existed. It is ironic that the very reason we were brought to these shores - our knowledge of nature - is now being used to help kill us. This cannot be acceptable.
Some things are beyond our control. But, we must resist all efforts to destroy the communities we love. If it means confronting violence and addiction, we must do so. If it means changing our eating habits, we must do so. If it means resisting placement of landfills and other harmful environmental hazards in our community, we must do so. Our future may depend on it. The loss of life may be result, but we cannot do it to ourselves.