The U.S. murder rate rose by 30% from 2019 to 2020 according to the Pew Research Center.
The year-over-year increase in the U.S. murder rate in 2020 was the largest since at least 1905 – and possibly ever, according to provisional data from the CDC.
The work of Turn90 is more relevant than ever. We work with the population most directly affected by the violence – young, Black men, disconnected from mainstream society.
It’s a dangerous time to be Black in America. If the most recent mass shooting in Buffalo did nothing else, it confirmed that fact. Another white supremacist terrorist targeted a group of Black people at what should have been a safe gathering space – a grocery store. As residents of South Carolina, we cannot ignore the echoes of the 2015 shooting at the Mother Emanuel AME Church here in Charleston. We remember the names and faces of the Charleston Nine as clearly as upstate New Yorkers will forever know those of the Buffalo Ten.
But violence against Black people doesn’t just come from radicalized white men.
The truth is most of the death comes from violence on the streets of cities across America. Cities like North Charleston, which remains Turn90’s home headquarters. The experiences of the men we serve bear that out; a recent informal survey found that, of the eight Black men in our Print Shop on a Friday afternoon, seven of them knew someone impacted by gun violence or death. When Malik told us his story, he spoke of at least four murders committed by Black men against other Black men, three of which have to date gone unsolved.
North Charleston Police Chief and Turn90 Board Member Reggie Burgess spoke to The Post & Courier this past January. Rather than shying away from the obvious racial disparities he sees in both perpetrators and victims in his city, he asked the author, “What is the common denominator? Black.”
He’s not wrong. If you scroll through local crime reports, you’ll see mug shot after mug shot of Black boys, staring out from the pages. Their faces are all different; some are angry, others sad. All, however, are young and Black. According to the article, in 2021, there were 34 murders in North Charleston; six of the victims were white and 28 were Black. Sixteen suspects were Black, and only seven were white. The sample size is small, but the CDC backs up this discrepancy. In 2021, it reported that Black males were 20 times more likely to die from gun violence than white males.
With murder rates rising across the country, that racial bias will only get worse, killing more and more young Black men in an epidemic of gun violence.
As we at Turn90 work to break the cycle that keeps young Black men incarcerated for longer and longer spans of time, we are also working to change the way our men think and act to break the cycles of violence as well. We know so much of this is out of our control, and we will always dread those middle-of-the-night phone calls telling us a student or graduate has been a victim of gun violence. But with each life we touch, we hope to create strong, powerful role models, showing the next generation that there is another way, and that way will lead in a direction away from incarceration, and away from gun violence.