‘Everyone should care’: Sociologists weigh in on ‘Black on Black’ violence after 9-year-old killed

Updated: Jul. 14, 2020 at 10:46 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - As police investigate the shooting death of nine-year-old Devante Bryant, his family gathered with the community to mourn his death and celebrate his life.

Those who spoke called for an end to “Black on Black” violence and the need to take personal responsibility. Yet, some sociologists say violence in the black community is an issue deserving everyone’s attention.

"It is time for us to step up," a speaker shouted.

Those who spoke called for action, to become more involved in their children’s lives and to look more closely at possible solutions. Others called for personal responsibility within the black community.

"We are the ones participating in drug selling, we are the ones who don't have any youth programs in our community," said another speaker.

New Orleans Police Superintendent Shaun Ferguson pleaded with the community for an end to what he called “senseless violence” and “Black on Black” crime.

"Anytime we, as a society, are talking about social justice versus social injustice, we as a community need to take a look at ourselves and what is it we are doing, what is it we are accepting as a norm that we should not be accepting as a norm," Ferguson said.

Some sociologists take issue with the phrasing, "Black on Black" violence.

“I think we should begin to understand that violence is a problem that everyone should care about. White suburban communities should care about murders in black communities, as everyone should,” explained Assistant Professor at Rutgers School of Criminology, Michael Sierra-Arevalo, Ph.D.. “We know that it does, disproportionately, affect black communities and Latino communities but that doesn’t mean somehow the problem is less great or that the problem deserves less attention or that, for some reason, these communities bear more blame.”

Sierrea-Arevalo says the issue does have to do with race due to systemic racism.

"When we think about violence, we're looking at one of the end results with a long history of policies, of decisions made by social institutions and the actors that inhabit those institutions. I'm talking about politicians," Sierra-Arevalo said.

Assistant Professor at the School of Social Welfare at University of California, Berkeley, Erin Kerrison, Ph.D, says it is crucial the community takes into account the circumstances of those committing crimes.

"It's not about the people in it. It's about the context in which the people occupy the space and are clinging to survive," said Kerrison. "This is a cultural question and culture gives rise to structural decisions. And it has nothing to do with whether you're black or not. It has to do with what kind of chances you were offered and what kind of supports you were denied."

These questions, they say, are more difficult to answer. And the community grieving the loss of nine-year-old Devante Bryant wants answers and, more importantly, solutions.

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