Black men as victims of crime: "Don't say the wrong thing"
Of all Americans, black men have the most to fear from violent crime. Even Latino men, who suffer high homicide rates, are much less likely than black men to be murdered. According to the just-released national FBI crime report for 2006, 42% of homicide victims last year were male blacks. Below, one in HR's occasional series on black men as crime victims. The young man featured is 18--the number one age for homicide victims in L.A. County through August, 2007.
Occupation: High-school student, Fremont High (bound for Morehouse College next year)
Residence: LAPD 77th St. Division--west of the 110 Freeway
Chances that he will murdered in a given year*: 15.2 in 10,000 (based on his age, race and gender)
Chance that a Latino man his age will be: 4.9 in 10,000
Chance that a white man his age will be: 1.4 in 10,000
Q. Do you have to be careful?
A. Basically you have to watch out wherever you go.... Don't say the wrong thing to the wrong person. I watch my back all the time.
Q. Has anyone close to you been the victim of a crime?
A. I lost my homeboy Jesse in middle school. He was about 13. He died on his front porch--in his mother's arms... My cousin got shot too, but he didn't die. He was 22. The bullet went through his shoulder and pierced his kidney...I also knew another guy from middle school who got killed. He got shot up in a car for no reason. But I didn't know him well. And I saw someone get shot right here, on this block. They killed him. I saw the gun come out, and 'bang!' They did it right in front of his kids.
Q. Have you ever been the victim of a crime?
A. No. I've been banged on a couple times, but I just tell them, 'I don't bang."
Q. Tell me about one time.
A. I was 11 years old. I was walking down the street, and I was wearing blue Chuck Taylors, and this is a Blood neighborhood. These two guys stopped me. They were about 18. They asked me where I was from. I said, "I don't bang. I'm 11 years old!"
Q. Where you ever pressured to join a gang?
A. Heck no! I'm too scared to do it! I mean, I'm not a wuss or anything. But that will just get you in jail or dead. And I'm scared of that.... And my mother, she always put pressure on me. If I lie to her, she gets on me.
Q. Are you ever afraid?
A. I'm more afraid of police brutality. I had a gun held to my head by a cop.
Q. What happened?
A. I was about 13 years old. I was going to the store to get minutes for my phone, and I was running. I thought I heard shouting. Then I heard someone yell, "stop!" real loud and I saw a car door open in front of me. This cop with a gun got out. I guess a house just got robbed by here, and I matched the description of the suspect.
They ordered me down. I was lying on the sidewalk on my back. I didn't know I was supposed to lie on my stomach--I didn't know how to do it! The gun was right up to my head. I was scared. I saw my life flash before my eyes. My mom came out on the street. She was really angry. I think she called the NAACP. They let me up. I started to cry a little. They didn't apologize. They didn't say nothing...Basically, after that, I was like, 'Forget the cops. They can't do nothing for me.'
Q. Does your mother worry?
A. She makes me let her know whenever I'm going outside. She wants me to be safe and alive. She tells me to pray before I go somewhere. And I always do.
* The homicide risk calculations above are based on homicide figures from the Los Angeles County Health Department in the year 2004. The figure for Seymore's risk is derived from homicide death rates for black males ages 15 to 19.