Every year this decade, Indiana has ranked among the top five states for the percentage of black males who die in a homicide — a rate that’s ranged 15 to 23 times higher than that of white male Hoosiers. It’s a statistic that’s not easily explained, says the Indianapolis Star. Experts long have understood the factors that make black males more likely than others to be victims of homicide: A disproportionate number live in poverty and are unemployed and undereducated, leading to a sense of hopelessness. That makes young black males more likely to live in close proximity to — or be an active participant in — the violent drug culture at the root of so many homicides. What’s perplexing is why the problem is so acute in Indiana.
“I don’t have a real definitive answer as to why,” said James Garrett Jr. Commission on the Social Status of Black Males. Some experts say it can be explained in part because the majority of homicides among black males occur in Indianapolis and Gary, which had a rate almost triple the statewide figure in 2007. Social networks are smaller in those cities than places such as Chicago or Los Angeles. William Oliver, an associate professor of criminal justice at Indiana University, calls it a greater “density of acquaintanceship.” He explained: “The opportunity to come into contact with someone with whom you’ve had a dispute is greater.”That increases the likelihood of conflicts that may escalate into violence or homicide.”