Last year, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police investigated just 55 homicides, fewer than they have at anytime since the late 1980s. A conference next week will highlight something that hasn't changed much – and it continues to be disheartening, says Charlotte Observer columnist Fannie Flono: The drop in killings and violence didn't affect who's most likely to wind up in emergency rooms and on undertakers' tables as victims – black males. In 2011, blacks accounted for 58 percent of the city's homicide victims.
Dr. David Jacobs of the F.H. “Sammy” Ross Trauma Institute at Carolinas Medical Center calls it the unspoken health disparity. “Ninety-five times out of a hundred, that's who I see,” he said. Yet many people don't acknowledge or discuss this disparity. “People are uncomfortable talking about crime within the context of race,” he said. Many blacks view the issue with shame as if it's a “dirty little secret.” Many whites shy away from discussing it for fear of being accused of racism, he said. At the conference, Jacobs is bringing in experts to lay out the factors that in his words “prime the engine” for violence in black males – and in Latino and Native American males as well, he notes. They include not only lack of education and job opportunities but a feeling of being disrespected. These socio-economic and cultural conditions create an environment that pulls men of color toward violence, he said. Media portrayals of crime and violence also contribute to the problem – often giving a distorted view of the situation, and that distortion impedes effective violence prevention strategies.