Violence in Black America: Part II of a Special Report

Dr. Valda Regina Crowder, MD

By Hazel Trice Edney |

Special to The Truth

Dr. Valda Crowder, director of Emergency Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, witnesses the carnage up close on a regular basis. And it’s gotten so bad that while treating victims, she and other medical professionals must also protect themselves.

“Many emergency rooms now have armed guards because there have been threats against emergency medical physicians, nurses, and hospitals. There have been actual shootings where emergency medical physicians were killed,” Crowder said in an interview.

“So many now have armed guards as a result of the increased threats. Many also have machines and metal detectors that you have to go through just like at the airport. Patients are sometimes wanded. Those things never used to occur 20 or 25 years ago. I think people should realize that any person or entity that anyone could get mad at is a potential victim.”

Crowder is one of those struggling to end the carnage. She recalls how the historic photo of the mutilated body of Emmett Till, published in Jet magazine, stunned the world and has been credited with sparking the civil rights movement. Crowder believes that same kind of stunning moment could work again by placing on display bodies that have been mutilated by gun violence.

“In 1955, the open-casket funeral of Emmett Till drew international attention to the savagery of Jim Crow, spurring a national civil rights movement,” Crowder wrote in an op-ed early this year. “Now almost 68 years later, we must ‘do something’ to stop the gun violence. Opening the casket of someone who was shot by an assault rifle in a mass shooting may be the shock the nation needs. It may be the photograph that launches a bigger, broader movement overwhelming the clout of gun manufacturers and other entrenched influences.”

S. Rep. Bobby Scott, who held a “Gun Violence Prevention Roundtable” in 2019 following an incident in which 13 people were killed in a mass shooting, listed a string of Virginia killings and gun injuries. “We have evidence available to show that effective policies can reduce these shootings,” Scott says.

“When they are implemented, background checks work. Every day, background checks stop nearly 250 dangerous individuals from being handed a firearm. However, these same people can go to a gun show and purchase a firearm without any background check. Virginia laws are among the worst in the country,” he said, describing the state as the “gun-running capital of the world.”

Scott says an assault weapons ban must be instituted because “the only thing that assault weapons are good for is killing many people quickly.” He said there is also need for sizeable gun magazine limitations. There are actually limitations on the size of a gun magazine to protect ducks, but no limits on the size of gun magazines to protect people, he said.

Congressman Bobby Scott

After a rash of mass shootings, including the racist killings of 10 people at a Buffalo, New York, grocery store by a 19-year-old White man, the U.S. House and Senate finally passed a historic bipartisan gun bill that was signed into law by President Joe Biden last year. The first significant gun legislation in more than 30 years, it includes enhanced restrictions on gun ownership by people convicted of certain violent crimes, including domestic abuse.

But it still fails to include restrictions on large bullet magazines. In fact, a similar racist killing of three Black people in Jacksonville, Florida, on August 26 was committed by a 21-year-old White man who reportedly bought the AR-15-style rifle legally. Biden said he didn’t get all that he wanted in the new law, but he vowed to keep trying.

Conflict resolution

Still, good old-fashioned home training that instills nonviolent morals and values is the best way to deter violence, said Bailey.

“The respect for life, how your parents raised you, matters. If you believe human beings are valuable, you wouldn’t shoot someone at all, let alone shoot them for a nonviolent offense,” Bailey said. “But in many shootings now that are not self-defense or life or death, people are said to have “beef” over something that’s nonviolent and the person escalates it to violence by grabbing a gun and shooting someone.”

Parents, teachers and school officials could be in on this conflict resolution training, Bailey says. “Children are on the playground bumping into each other all the time. How teachers and counselors handle it goes a long way in teaching a little kid that it’s normal to jump around and bump into each other. But it’s not normal to bump into each other and knock them down and not try to help them up or offer assistance.

“Those are the kinds of things that start the process,” Bailey said. “You can also role play how to defuse arguments so that young people recognize what you should and should not say in the middle of an argument. Young men [involved in violent conflicts] are often 18, 19 and 20 years old. They can drive and move around. They just may not know how to handle conflict. We should be very involved in this process.”

Hazel Trice Edney, president and CEO of Trice Edney Communications, and former editor-in-chief of the NNPA News Service.