One of the most disturbing trends in the United States is the increasing rate of teenage murders among African American youth. The killing increased 34 per cent during the period from 2000 to 2007 when a study was completed.
The murders committed by white teenagers increased from 1.5 per cent during that same time. This has occurred at a time when the overall murder rate for the country has gone down.
These statistics about teen violence coupled with the rise in high school dropouts is bringing serious concern to the African American community. One author calls this phenomenon that is rampant in the community self-hatred. Anger is directed towards individuals of the same race not those outside. This same author calls the killing of teens by one another a spiritual sickness.
Jarvis DeBerry wrote an editorial opinion piece for the Times Picayune , appropriately for Jan. 2, 2009 as New Orleans saw a number of killings in the city, many of them taking place in African American neighborhoods. He writes passionately about the problem, that young people consider destroying one another no big deal.
DeBerry interviewed the Rev. John Raphael of New Hope Baptist Church in New Orleans who is concerned about the high rate of retaliatory murderers taking place. This dedicated minister goes into neighborhoods and talks to young people in order to give them hope and to help them recognize their value to their families and their communities. He explains to them the concept of self worth, something many do not have. He also underlines to them the fact that murder is wrong. In addition to this, Raphael believes in the power of prayer and has undertaken a fasting and prayer vigil since Sunday on Clairborne Avenue in New Orleans. He has taken his stand there because that Central City community has become particularly dangerous and the criminal element unrepentant.
According to the New York Times that also reported this story, the weapon of choice for teens these days is a gun. The increase in black teenage violence, said James Alan Fox, a criminal justice professor at Northeastern University, is a serious problem “and there are signs that the racial gap will grow without countermeasures like restoring police officers in the streets and creating social programs for poor youth."
At a time when the nation’s economy is teetering and there are concerns that crime may grow as a consequence, the increase in the murder of black teens is something researchers and city authorities are concerned about, especially in neighborhoods already affected by high crime rates. Most people hope that the combination of having more police officers, social programs for teens, neighborhood conversations and prayer will help stop the killing of the children by each other.