Commentary: Murder in Detroit

Jan 2, 2013

Well, we’ve gotten past the so-called fiscal cliff, at least for now, and averted what might have been a disaster for our economy.

Soon, once everyone is back to work, you can expect to see a whole lot of attention paid to the economic disaster that is Detroit.

The state is reviewing the city’s finances, and the governor may soon name an emergency financial manager.

You’ll be hearing a lot about that as things move along. But there is another horrendous crisis destroying Detroit that we don’t talk much about. Black people are killing black people at a horrendous rate, and nobody seems sufficiently concerned. 

That’s not just my opinion. I’m basing this on a remarkable speech given last week by a man who knows more than most of us ever will about what he calls black-on-black violence.

His name is Chester Logan, and he is Detroit’s interim chief of police. He took over three months ago when his predecessor quit over a sex scandal. Chief Logan knows a lot about violence. His own brother was shot to death in Detroit in nineteen sixty-eight, when Logan was serving in Vietnam. Last year, the chief’s nephew was gunned down at his job at a Detroit barber shop.

Since Logan joined the force in 1969, the chief estimates 15,000 black men have been killed on the city. That doesn’t mean women and children aren’t victims too.

One of the last of the 375 homicides last year was an eight year old girl stabbed to death. There are a few white victims too, whose deaths tend to get much more attention, such as the two teenage boys from suburban Westland found in a Detroit field last summer.

But most of the victims are black and most are men. To put this in perspective, more people were murdered in Detroit last year than our nation lost fighting in Afghanistan.

More people were murdered in Detroit last year than our nation lost fighting in Afghanistan.

A week ago today, Chief Logan spoke to people who’ve lost family and friends to violence in Detroit.

He told them he was angry because while everyone knows Trayvon Martin, the Florida teen allegedly murdered by a white man,
few remember Delric Miller, a nine-month-old Detroit baby murdered last February. “Why isn’t there the same rage when we do it?” Logan asked. “Our civil rights organizations didn’t speak out, you didn’t see Al Sharpton come here. Why?”

The chief also got mad when the rapper Queen Latifah recently said gay marriage should be the next civil rights movement. Logan isn’t against same-sex marriage, but said, “Why don’t we make the next civil rights movement the reduction of black-on-black violence in our major cities? That should be almost our singular focus, to stop this madness.“

The chief says he gets asked what the police department is doing about this. That’s fair, but he added, “I would also challenge them to ask, what is the press doing about it, what is the preacher doing about it, what is the parent doing?” 

“Our children, our young men are dying like dogs in the street and it seems like we’re passing it by.” I don’t know if Chief Logan has any answers. But I do know, as he does, that this is something everyone should be talking about, all the time.  

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio’s political analyst. Views expressed in the essays by Lessenberry are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.