NYTimes | Ali-Rashid Abdullah, 67 and broad-shouldered with a neatly trimmed gray beard, is an ex-convict turned outreach worker for Cincinnati’s Human Relations Commission. He or his co-workers were at the scenes of all five of Cincinnati’s shootings with four or more casualties last year, working the crowds outside the yellow police tape, trying to defuse the potential for further gunfire.
They see themselves as stop signs for young black men bound for self-destruction. They also see themselves as truth-tellers about the intersection of race and gun violence — a topic that neither the city’s mayor, who is white, nor its police chief, who is black, publicly addresses.
“White folks don’t want to say it because it’s politically incorrect, and black folks don’t know how to deal with it because it is their children pulling the trigger as well as being shot,” said Mr. Abdullah, who is black.
No one worries more about black-on-black violence than African-Americans. Surveys show that they are more fearful than whites that they will be crime victims and that they feel less safe in their neighborhoods.
Most parents Mr. Abdullah meets are desperate to protect their children but are trapped in unsafe neighborhoods, he said, “just trying to survive.” And some are in denial, refusing to believe that their sons are carrying or using pistols, even in the face of clear evidence.
“ ‘Not my child,’ ” he said, adopting the resentful tone of a defensive mother. “ ‘It may be his friends, but not my child, because I know how I raised my child.’ ”
His reply, he said, is blunt: “These are our children killing our children, slaughtering our children, robbing our children. It’s our responsibility first.”
African-Americans make up 44 percent of Cincinnati’s nearly 300,000 residents. But last year they accounted for 91 percent of shooting victims, and very likely the same share of suspects arrested in shootings, according to the city’s assistant police chief, Lt. Col. Paul Neudigate.
Nationally, reliable racial breakdowns exist only for victims and offenders in gun homicides, not assaults, but those show a huge disparity.
The gun homicide rate peaked in 1993, in tandem with a nationwide crack epidemic, and then plummeted over the next seven years. But blacks still die from gun attacks at six to 10 times the rate of whites, depending on whether the data is drawn from medical sources or the police. F.B.I. statistics show that African-Americans, who constitute about 13 percent of the population, make up about half of both gun homicide victims and their known or suspected attackers.
“Every time we look at the numbers, we are pretty discouraged, I have to tell you,” said Gary LaFree, a professor of criminology at the University of Maryland.
Some researchers say the single strongest predictor of gun homicide rates is the proportion of an area’s population that is black. But race, they say, is merely a proxy for poverty, joblessness and other socio-economic disadvantages that help breed violence.