Durham News: Opinion

We shouldn’t be choosing which lives matter – Carl Kenney

“Everybody wants their 15 minutes of fame,” a disgruntled Delbert Jarmon posted on his Facebook page. “Carloads going to Charlotte. Really? Just to let you know we had an 83 year-old black woman beat down in her home in Turnkey last week by a black man.”

Jarmon, known best as Deej Kraze, is a disc jockey and owner of Ideas Coffee House. He’s also the co-founder of “Community, Coffee, Cops and Conversation,” a series of meetings aimed at improving relationships between community members and law enforcement.

Jarmon’s Facebook post reflects a growing sentiment among some blacks. What is the purpose of the “Black Lives Matter” movement when the black community is impacted by black-on-black crime?

“We are mourning because the black community only demands justice when a white officer kills a person of color,” Donnamaria Harris texted the day after Rodrick Venard Duncan, 36, was sentenced to 44 years for the murders of Lennis Harris Jr., 24, Lajuan Coleman, 27, Jonathan Skinner, 26, and Jamel Holloway, 27. “When black men hunt and prey upon and kill their own kind, where is the outrage from the black community?”

Harris has carried rage for more than 10 years. That’s how long it took to sentence one of the three men involved in the shooting of Lennis, her stepson. Her message resonates with those who have witnessed the slow motion ride to justice.

“We need to protest the fools going to Charlotte to stay and address the issues here,” said John Rooks Jr., Jarmon’s partner with “Community, Coffee, Cops and Conversations.”

How does a person determine what matters the most – the call for police accountability or an emphasis on black-on-black crime?

“If you have 50 black people killed by police and 5,000 killed by another black person, what matters the most?” Rooks asked during a recent conversation.

It’s a good question, but it’s one that shouldn’t be asked. If it is true that all lives matter, a priority shouldn’t be placed on who commits the crime. The focus on victims of violence committed by law enforcement matters as much as bringing attention to those who die at the hands of people who don’t carry a badge.

“I am not saying I don't understand their outrage in Charlotte against the police,” LaManda Chestnut-Pryor said. “But how come we can’t have that same outrage when our own people are killing, beating and shooting our own people especially the babies and elderly, right here in Durham.”

It’s another excellent question that stirs debate due to assumptions regarding black-on-black crime.

The term black-on-black crime is regarded by many to be part of the problem. Many claim the notion is loaded with racist suppositions aimed at bolstering the view that the problem isn’t the judicial system and law enforcement that targets black people, but black people killing each other. There’s plenty of evidence to negate the need to stress black-on-black crime.

According to the FBI’s homicide statistics, 84 percent of white murder victims between 1980 and 2008 were killed by other whites. Although the number of white murderers exceeds blacks, there is no mention of “white-on-white crime.”

“I don’t care about any other race killing each other except black folk,” Jarmon said. “If other races were setting themselves on fire should we do it? No, so just because white kill white doesn't give us an excuse to do so.”

It’s the assumption of apathy that irritates Jarmon and Rooks. Maybe it’s the consequence of attending too many funerals of young black men killed by other black men. It’s easy to become enraged after reading and listening to comments of people left to mourn the death of a relative. It must hurt watching people from Durham protesting in Charlotte when few show up to hold the hands of grieving mothers and fathers.

“I have no joy, no closure, no peace,” Harris said. “I only have the image of our four sons being laid down and shot execution style while their killer still walks the streets secure in the knowledge that if a white cop shoots him, the black community will raise him up and chant that his black life matters.”

This is what happens when there is too much pain to carry. This is what happens when a community is forced to choose where and how to grieve.

All black lives matter.

Carl Kenney can be reached at Revcwkii@hotmail.com