The shootings that we have experienced in Columbia the last few weeks have all of us baffled, concerned and frustrated. Many experienced and learned people are speaking out about how to stop the violence.

Some see the events as nothing more than the activities of criminals in our community. The solution, for them, is simply to lock black folks up and systematically rid ourselves of these lawbreakers. The problem is that imprisonment has not solved the problem in our society. We keep building more and more prisons, yet the propensity for violence increases. It is simply a temporary solution to an ongoing challenge.

Some have articulated the various systemic and structural barriers that have perpetuated the problem of violence. Unfortunately, the phenomenon is deeper than theoretical analysis can adequately address.

Some attribute the cause of violence to a spiritual lostness that can only be conquered through prayer, preaching and supplication. Again, while I believe in spiritual action, preaching at the problem and quoting scripture will not stop the tragedy.

I believe that the root of the problem is anti-black hatred within the black community. It is "the elephant in the room" that no one wishes to acknowledge. This problem has been with us since our days in slavery. Many black leaders and thinkers have addressed it: Garvey, Malcolm X, Gordon, Angelou, King and Cone just to name a few. Somewhere along the line we have allowed ourselves to be fooled into 1) hating ourselves and 2) hating other black folk and people of color.

While white people do kill other white people, black-on-black crime is a major problem within the black community. Our failure to work together for a common cause; our non-support of black entrepreneurship; the foolishness of light-skin, dark-skin rivalries; the downplaying of education; and, of course, the killing of one another all point to the power and prominence of anti-black hatred within the black community.

The black community in Columbia has changed. Once, we had the people like Beulah Ralph, Sarah Belle Jackson, Almeta Crayton and others who encouraged and inspired us to think of ourselves as one people while fighting against the systematic racism that plagued Columbia. We were a community of families that watched out and cared for one another.

Now it seems that we operate by a mantra that goes: "Every person for themselves."

Something fundamentally new (and yet old) must emerge if we are going to stop the violence in Columbia. We must insist, loudly and clearly, that gun violence in the black community will not be tolerated by black Columbia. We can and must police ourselves. We must stop quoting how "snitches get stitches" and proclaim, "Put down the guns, and stop the violence or you will have to answer to us!"

We must unite for positive change in our community. The NAACP, Race Matters, Friends, black Churches, black Muslims, the Minority Men’s Network, black university and college faculty and others must form a think tank and action group to address the problems black youth (and the black community in toto) are experiencing. The need for decent jobs and affordable housing, as well as positive self-identity, is real. If we continue to act as if it is someone else’s problem, we shall continue to see our children die before our eyes.

We must become merchants of hope and not despair. We decide if we will be victims or victors.

The power is in our hands. Use it.

My sincere condolences to all the families that experienced death because of senseless violence in our community. It is time for a change. Some things black people must do for themselves. Overcoming anti-black hatred in the black community has to be a top priority.

About opinions in the Missourian: The Missourian’s Opinion section is a public forum for the discussion of ideas. The views presented in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Missourian or the University of Missouri. If you would like to contribute to the Opinion page with a response or an original topic of your own, visit our submission form.

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