Black men are America's most likely crime victims. Even Latino men, who suffer high homicide rates, are much less likely than black men to be murdered. A black man is safer in prison today than living free in Los Angeles County.
HR is doing an occasional series of Q&A's on black men as crime victims. This the most recent installment:
Name: Rodney Dennis
Occupation: Registered medical assistant. Also Army Reserve.
Residence: Mid-City. Grew up in Baldwin Village.
Chance that he will be murdered in a given year*: 15.9 in 10,000 (based on his age, race and gender).
Chance a Latino man his age will be: 2.1 in 10,000.
Chance a white man his age will be: 0.6 in 10,000.
Q. How many people close to you have been victims of crime?
A. My brother was carjacked at gunpoint. My cousin's car was shot up. My father was shot six times when he was 57 years old in a robbery in Houston.
It was about eight years ago. He ran a soul food restaurant near the airport, and the suspects came to rob the restaurant. They were white. One of the shots hit my father in the head. He died five years later of a massive stroke. I think it was related to being shot. Before he was shot, he had no problems like that. But his body never recovered. He was never the same. Then he died. They were never caught.
Q. How many times have you been a victim of violence?
Q. Can you describe your experiences?
A. The first time, I was about 15. I was at a bus stop on Imperial near Southwest College, where I was in a program to earn college credit during high school. Two black guys came up, 14 or 15 years old, a little younger than me I think. They asked me where I was from, as usual. I said, "Nowhere." I was wearing my dad's class ring. One of them pulled up his shirt and showed me two guns in his waistband. He said, "Give me the ring, or I'll shoot you."
I gave them all my money, and the ring. They took my watch, my backpack, and threw my school books in the street. I tried to run, and as I was running, I was hit in the leg. The bullet went into my thigh and out the other side. I didn't even know I was hit. I ran almost a mile before I knew. A lady saw the blood. It had dripped on the sidewalk. She took me to a hospital. One of the guys was murdered two days later during another robbery attempt. They arrested the other.
The second time was about four years later here in Baldwin Village. I was walking in an alley, and a guy and a girl jumped out of a car. He was black, she was Hispanic. They thought I was a Blood. They said, "F- Bloods!" and jumped on me.
I was fighting the guy, and then I felt something hit my back. When I turned around to see, I suddenly felt dizzy and I fell. They drove away. I still didn't know what had hit me until I reached back and grabbed the handle. It was an icepick, stuck in my back.
I tried to pull it out--it was just instinct. But a lady stopped me and took me to the hospital. It was a real sharp pain, much worse than being shot. At the hospital, they took an x-ray to see if they could pull it out. It was less than an inch from my lung. They pulled it out. It hurt so much.
Q. Are you afraid?
A. I watch my back everywhere I go. We joke about it in my family--that if you make it to 30, you have hit a milestone. I have three kids, two boys and a girl. I am worried every day. My fiancee and I, we are looking at moving. We are looking at Rialto. Maybe Texas.
Q. What would it take to make you safe?
A. I really could not answer that question. I think about it every day. But sad to say, I think there is no way to make us safer. We just have to watch our backs all the time. I think maybe, though, if we cared more about the U.S. instead of caring about other countries, we might solve it.
Q. What do you think about the police?
A. We need more police. They stop me all the time. I wouldn't hurt a fly. But because of the way I look, my size, my tattoos, they think so.... But I can deal with being harassed by police every day because I know if I am being harassed, then maybe they are stopping something else from happening. So I don't care of they pull me over 100 times a day.
Q. What would happen if you were shot, right now, on this street?
A. If I was shot, they would just bring a coroner's van, and take me away. It would be just another black man shot.
See also: "I had a bad feeling." and "Don't say the wrong thing." and "I wake up in a cold sweat."
*The homicide risk calculations above are based on homicide figures from the Los Angeles County Health Department for male adults 30 to 34 in the year 2004. The figure for Dennis' risk is based on homicide death rates for black men in his 30-34 age group.