Another week, another white police officer caught "policing" the black community with coercion, not consent. The narrative this week is: If you're young and black in America, not even a pool party is safe. Subsequent protests have forced former Officer of the Year Eric Casebolt to turn in his badge and gun — it seems you really can mess with Texas.
But in all of the tallying of police shootings and talk of watching the watchmen, we neglect the real issue — the phantom menace of internecine violence among young black men.
Police killed about 150 black people in 2013, the last year data are available. Black people killed 6,501 black people that same year. If "black lives matter," why are we ignoring so many black lives lost?
Public silence on this issue has led some to argue that "#SomeBlackLivesDontMatter." But this is another reductionism. Homicide and violent crime are up this year in several major cities, including Minneapolis.
Baltimore, the city that in popular culture exemplified the bleakness of poor urban places, then in real life collapsed under the weight of Freddie Gray's death in police custody, has suffered a staggering 128 homicides in 2015. There were 43 killings in May alone, the highest one-month total in 40 years.
Of the 128 Baltimore victims this year, 110 — or 86 percent — were black. Admittedly, 60 percent of Baltimore city residents are black, but the scary thing is that over 80 percent of those killed are under the age of 34.
We're witnessing the systematic elimination of a significant part of a racial-ethnic group — its younger generation. And this is genocide from within because most homicides are intraracial.
It's true that white people are also more likely to kill white people. However, black people kill each other at six times the rate of whites. This doesn't just happen in places like Baltimore. In Minnesota, where blacks comprise less than 6 percent of the population, 40 percent of all homicide victims and offenders are black.
Coming back to Baltimore, the city consistently suffers about 200 homicides per year, half of which go unsolved. That's 1,000 unsolved murders over 10 years, which means Baltimore police come face-to-face with multiple un-apprehended killers, possibly serial murderers, on any given day. Some of them, Bloods and Crips, ironically, teamed up recently to protest police.
It seems the community knows where the wild things are, yet cannot speak out either from fear or adherence to the street code that promotes violence as a means of dispute resolution. In the words of one former Los Angeles gang member, "The mechanics of oppressing people is to pervert them to the extent that they become the instruments of their own oppression."
As social scientists, we welcome any effort to resolve the continuing legacy of colonialism and structural inequality in America, which we wholeheartedly acknowledge. But we cannot abide the incessant war with ourselves, at a time when we should be allied. Black Lives Matter pits people against police. Blue Lives Matter is its counternarrative. And then there is All Lives Matter, suitably chastised for minimizing the plight of African-Americans.
Are some police officers, even some police agencies, guilty of dereliction of duty? Absolutely. Blacks have long been overpoliced and underprotected. But the fact remains: Black-on-black homicide is concentrated in the same small geographic areas where police officers are most likely to be involved in problematic citizen encounters. Such communities need law enforcement the most and will suffer the most if it retreats.
Young black men are dying in epidemic proportion. Few are noticing. There can be no resolution without reconciliation, recognition from both the police and the community that they are individually responsible for mistakes made in the past but collectively willing and able to reject the past to build a safer future together.
Everyone — black, white and blue — must sacrifice to save black lives. We can still win this war, but only if every able-bodied American fights to form "a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity."
Failure is not an option if we truly are the country we purport ourselves to be.
James A. Densley is an associate professor of criminal justice at Metropolitan State University. He is the author of "How Gangs Work" and the forthcoming "Minnesota's Criminal Justice System." David Squier Jones is a researcher at the Center for Homicide Research in Minneapolis and a former St. Paul police officer. James Alan Fox provided data for this commentary.