Written by Kiki Moore
An article published by the International Business Times reported that Omaha is the most dangerous place in America for black males. For some people, this is shocking because Nebraska is known to be a peaceful place. Others have directly experienced this and know it very well.
The IB Times article, published Jan. 27, 2014, said 30 blacks were murdered in Nebraska in 2011, and of those, 27 resided in Omaha. Murder rates in other places have dropped dramatically, even in Chicago, which recorded a 16 percent drop in homicides last year, its fewest killings since 1965. While gang killings and other crimes govern headlines for Philadelphia, Chicago, New Orleans, and Oakland, Calif., the city with the highest incidence of black murder victims is one of 420,000 residents: Omaha.
Dr. Cynthia Robinson, associate professor in the School of Communication, who has a background in Black Studies, is the mother of four children. Her two youngest are black males, living in Omaha and in their 20’s. The average age of victims is 28. Although gang violence is something Robinson may not disregard, she is more concerned that the racist criminal justice system is responsible for more harm against black males than black-on-black crime.
In 2005, Robinson’s nephew was tased to death by the Omaha Police department. Almost 20 years ago, her neighbor’s brother, a veteran of the Gulf War, was shot by a young officer who mistook his cellphone for a gun. Robinson believes the police responded to the wrong neighborhood block, racially profiled the man and pulled him over. When he got out of the car, they mistook his cellphone for a gun, shot and killed him.
“These are two of the many, many stories of black males being killed by the OPD,” Robinson said. “However, unlike black-on-black killings, police murder against black males is deemed justifiable homicide. Unfortunately, black males must be constantly on guard from violence in their communities coming from their peers and the police, as well as unjust racial stereotyping aimed against black males.”
Robinson believes black history needs to be infused in the educational curriculum throughout the year.
“If the average person knew and understood black history, they would have more respect for black people,” Robinson said. “And if black people knew and understood our own history better, we would have more respect for ourselves and each other.”
Robinson also believes educational and employment opportunities, along with the eradication of racism, would make a difference in Omaha being so dangerous for black males. She believes the racism which created the stereotype started from post-Civil War media images.
“The stereotype of black males as criminals is absolutely not true, and the belief in the stereotype allows the institutional racism within our criminal justice system to continue,” Robinson said.
Tyler Garrett, a junior at University of Nebraska at Omaha, grew up knowing a lot of people living a “gang” lifestyle. In his younger years, he and his cousins were close, but they thought differently. He understood how a choice could affect everything.
Garrett believes in order for things to progress, “Our community would have to think about what life is like and what life could be like. Omaha being dangerous should give people the initiative to work for a better community, but it hasn’t. If our youth and our community were to change, we would need a different state of mind. Many people in the black community are divided. If nothing changes we’ll divide until we don’t matter.”
“Gun violence is a public health crisis that touches all Americans, but the impact on African- Americans is especially devastating”, said Josh Sugarmann, vice president of The Violence Policy Center. “This report [the IB Times article] should be a wake-up call for our elected officials to address the disproportionately high homicide victimization rate among black men and women. The longer we wait to act, the more lives that will will be lost”.