Social Caretaking, Missing the Point
You are defending the people who kill the lives you say matter. Bill Clinton, April 7, 2016
The most pressing public policy issues facing African-Americans is not how others treat us, but how we treat each other. It is a question only we can answer; a responsibility only we bear; a policy issue that only we can resolve. The issue was highlighted by the recent comments of former President Bill Clinton in defense of the 1994, Violent Crime Control Act, during a campaign event for his wife and leading Democratic Presidential contender Hilary Clinton.
Reflecting the country’s tough on crime mentality, the Crime Bill required mandatory minimum sentences for non violent offenders and the mandatory registration of sex offenders. The legislation also spurred the prison building frenzy of the mid to late 1990s.
When confronted by members of Black Lives Matter who accused the bill of destroying African-American communities Clinton replied that he had communicated with other African-Americans who urged him to support the bill because people were being shot in the streets by gangs. We had 13-year-old kids planning their funerals. I don’t know how you (the protestors), would characterize the gang leaders who got 13-year-old hopped on crack and sent them out in the street to murder other African-American children. Maybe you thought they were good citizens. http://rollingout.com/2016/04/07/bill-clinton-defends-mass-incarceration-blasts-black-lives.
The former President further argued that gangs and drugs have taken over our streets and undermined our schools. Every day, we read about somebody else who has literally gotten away with murder.” http://www.npr.org/2014/09/12/347736999/20-years-later-major-crime-bill-viewed-as-terrible-mistake.
Bill Clinton is certainly no angel, the criminal justice system even less so. The Crime Bill did not make our streets safe, was applied in a discriminatory manner and did in fact contribute to the mass incarceration of African-Americans.
Nonetheless, Clinton was absolutely right. There are indeed unrepentant black super predators that prey almost exclusively on African-Americans. The harsh reality of black life is that the criminal victimization of blacks by other blacks is not just a daily occurrence. It instead happens every hour on the hour in every nook and corner of America. And we all know it.
Unfortunately, rather than take a long hard look in the mirror; instead of holding ourselves to any level of accountability, the knee jerk reaction of far too many African Americans is denial, deflection and attack. We question the motives of anyone who dares point out the obvious. We misrepresent the position of these heretics and then argue against the misrepresentation. We deflect and point the finger anywhere but us. And if all else fails we attack. Such was the case with Bill Clinton.
His comments were not examples of false logic, the assertion of some notwithstanding. The Clinton reply was entirely on point. The comments were not racist despite the allegations of Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, were not dismissive of Black Lives Matter and were not an attempt to justify the mass incarceration of African Americans.
Many blacks in Congress voted for the Crime Bill. So did Bernie Sanders. No reasonable argument can be made that their intent was to criminalize African-Americans.
Equally as important, the Clinton position no more disrespects the parents of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Mike Brown or the multitude of other unarmed blacks killed by whites for simply being black in America than those who disagree with said position are disrespectful of the millions of unnamed African-American who have been killed by other African-Americans for reasons that are both absurd and pathetic. See http://rollingout.com/2016/04/07/bill-clinton-defends-mass-incarceration-blasts-black-lives.
And while drugs, the economy, failing schools, the absence of mental health facilities and insidious record companies which promote gangsta rap over more positive forms of Hip Hop may contribute to our malaise so too does our values and behavior.
What then accounts for our collective refusal to look in the mirror? Why are we so resistant to the truth?
Group caretaking is the act of taking responsibility for the feelings, thoughts, choices, problems, comfort and destiny of others while neglecting responsibility for ourselves. We would support social caretaking if it worked; if it made us stronger, better. Regrettably, it does not.
Rather, group caretaking weakens us. It proffers the false paradigm that others hold the key to our well-being; that we cannot be content or prosperous until or unless someone else behaves in a particular manner or certain events occur. Social caretaking forfeits the power and responsibility we have for our own behavior, our own destiny and gives it to the very forces that burdens us.
It fosters feelings of vulnerability, victimization, helplessness and frustration. It hampers our ability to learn, adopt or take responsibility for ourselves. And it hurts both the caretaker and care taken. See Melody Beattie, The Language of Letting Go, Daily Meditations and Codependency, Hazelden Publishing, June 1990.
So rather than vilify any who dares voice the inconvenient truth, the most beneficial act we can perform is to take responsibility for our own conduct and insist that others do the same. The kindest and most generous behavior we as African-Americans can take is to take responsibility for ourselves for what we think, feel, want, and need.
We need not bury our head in the sand. We are neither blind nor helpless. We know that this is a complicated issue with no easy answer.
However, black on black crime is a problem, if not the problem confronting African Americans. Rather than passivity and resignation, we need to address this existential challenge with the same grit and determination that we object to white on black crime.
All change begins from within. Until and unless we demonstrate that black lives matters to blacks, our safety and well-being will matter to no one else. It is not others who miss this fundamental point. It is we.
Leo Barron Hicks, Founder and CEO
Blackacre Policy Forum