GRAB BAG: A closer look at a slogan

By Niketta Tammons
The Scene staff

“Black lives matter” has become an enduring rallying cry of people protesting police brutality all over the country, and I agree. But I also think all lives matter.

On the ESPN program “First Take” recently, Skip Bayless, one of the hosts, pointed out the irony that while black lives do matter, the fact is that more black people kill other blacks than police officers do.

That statement made me stop and think. Does the slogan “Black lives matter” really make any sense? I decided to do a little research.

Sure enough, University of Missouri-St. Louis criminology professor David Klinger conducted a decade-long study of 1,265 murders in the city, and he found that 90 percent of victims were black and 90 percent of the black victims were killed by other blacks.

Klinger asserted that his study showed that by a ratio of 50 to 1, more blacks in St. Louis are killed by other blacks as compared to fatal shootings of blacks by white police officers. The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports show that only 8 percent of blacks who were killed in 2013 were slain by whites.

Among the most publicized examples of black-on-black crime in the St. Louis area involved Jamyla Bolden, 9, who was fatally shot in August as she sat doing her homework on her mother’s bed in Ferguson. Police say De’Eris Brown, 21, of O’Fallon, Mo., fired shots from outside the house, also wounding her mother. Brown faces multiple charges, including second-degree murder.

Now, in no way am I letting police officers off the hook for their part in violence against African Americans, but I must mention these fatalities as examples of black-on-black crime.

Crime in our city and all around the United States is ridiculous. At 35, I have seen enough bad news to last the rest of my life.

I have a friend who has been a police officer for 12 years. I asked him recently, “How did it get so bad?” He said, “People are angry, and many lack the intelligence to express their anger properly.”

Huh? Does this mean that cops, who are also people, lack the intelligence to express themselves properly, resulting in anger and unnecessary violence? I will leave that as an open question for anyone who cares to ponder it.

I wanted to learn more about this subject, and I went to, a self-described “news site for the 21st century.” Its stated mission seeks to “explain the news, politics, public policy, world affairs, pop culture and science for the modern person.”

On April 10, the site posted FBI records on 426 felons killed by police in 2012, as well as details about victims and circumstances surrounding their deaths. This type of data is important in understanding what’s really going on.

Some other statistics that interested and disturbed me:

• St. Louis metropolitan police reported 4,709 crimes to the FBI in August.

• By early October, St. Louis homicides totaled 154 so far this year, compared with 159 for all of last year.

Homicide statistics aren’t always accurate because people die later of other injuries, or other developments cause a change in category. But they still tell a story.

Whether you believe it or not, all lives matter, down to the smallest insects. Chanting “black lives matter,” referring only to one group, is shortsighted and immature.

If you are concerned with black lives, reach out and touch one. As a community, we could create more nonprofit organizations that cater to youths of all races, not just black ones.

We could take the time and mentor each other to help and gain a better understanding of each other, and maybe everyone will realize that we have more similarities than differences, and that all lives matter.