Addressing African American Inner-City Violence

Looking at the causality and viable engagement options for effectively dealing with African American inner-city violence, especially as it pertains to African American adolescent males.

Looking at the causality and viable engagement options for effectively dealing with African American inner-city violence, especially as it pertains to African American adolescent males.


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African American Inner-city Violence

Rick Wallace, Ph.D.

The Odyssey Project


Addressing African American Inner-city

Violence through Racial Socialization


Dr. Rick Wallace, Ph.D.

2016 Copyright © The Odyssey Project Research Department

Addressing African American Inner-city Violence through Racial Socialization

The multitudinous, enigmatic issues that are plaguing the Black collective have been welldocumented

in books, research, articles and academic papers, and one of the most polarizing

topics is what is commonly referred to by mainstream media as “black on black” crime. While I

have played an integral role in exposing the myth of black on black crime as an exclusive

phenomenon, I must still acknowledge the existence of intraracial hostility and fratricide as a

serious threat to the idea of black empowerment. The fact that the vast majority of violent crimes

against blacks are committed by other blacks is nothing unusual. It is a natural part of the social

construct. People normally commit violent acts against those they are most exposed to within

their enclave. In fact, 84 percent of homicides against Whites are committed by other whites, and

this number is pretty consistent throughout all racial makeups.

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Yet, the problem still remains that Blacks, especially adolescents and young adults are killing

each other at an alarming rate. With the Black male population suffering a major hit from mass

incarceration, we cannot afford the perpetual occurrence of young black males killing one

another — not to mention innocent bystanders.

I have invested a substantial amount of time in understanding the causality of the violence in the

inner city. What I have found is that there are a number of primary elements involved. At the

core, there are common influencers, such as being the victim of violence, witnessing violence,

and urban hassle. Each of these influencers serve to increase the proclivity of African American

adolescent males to become violent. However, there are two elements that are viewed as the

most prevalent influencers — the feeling of being disrespected and the lack of proper racial

socialization (DeGruy, Brennan, & Briggs, 2009). While the manner in which “respect”

influences the development of a prosocial attitude in African American youth is immensely

important, and most likely the most powerful influence in the increased risk of violence, it is the

development of a universal racial socialization process, introduced through a “rite of passage”

model, that will have the greatest initial impact.

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Racial socialization is defined as specific verbal and non-verbal messages that are transmitted to

younger generations for the development of values, attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs regarding

the meaning and significance of race and racial stratification, intergroup interactions, and

personal and group identity.

Racial socialization is receiving increased attention in the world of scientific research, primarily

due to the fact that there is growing empirical and pragmatic evidence to support the idea that it

is a protective developmental process, especially when it comes to African American families.

Not only can proper rational socialization of African American males reduce the need to

discipline children, it can also increase the effect of disciplinary action, when it is deemed

necessary (Rodriguez, McKay, & Bannon, 2009).

While racial socialization can enhance the ability of Blacks to effectively parent their children, it

has the capacity to do so much more. Proper racial socialization can prepare children to adjust to

the unique demands associated with being black — helping them develop a positive self-concept.

Additionally, when African American children are faced with discrimination and racism, they

will have the ability to identify with the prosocial attitude and pride of belonging to the Black

race, using this identity as a coping strategy (Boykin & Toms, 1985; Peters, 1985; Ward, 2000).

Theory and research on racial socialization as a part of the parenting process in managing the

behavior of children, and studies focused on behavioral problems have developed separately;

however, recent research has gravitated towards examining how certain aspects of racial

socialization relate to impacting problem behaviors, including violence (Caughy, O'Camp,

Randolf, & Nickerson, 2002; Stenvenson, Herrero-Taylor, Cameron, & Davis, 2002)

Racial socialization is the primary vehicle of cultural transmission for African American families

that are steeped in the tradition of oppressive resistance — involving actions and conversations

that communicate to our children how to survive and thrive with dignity, despite the incessant

hostility by those in their periphery (Stevenson, Davis, & Abdul-Kabir, 2001).

One thing that we have done as a racial group that has limited our effectiveness in preparing our

children, is that we fail to see beyond the surface of the symptomatic issues that plague our

communities. Additionally, we fail to see education as a tool of empowerment. We see the

violence, the dropout rates and higher incarceration rates, but it has become easier for us to

accept the narrative provided to us by the mainstream media than it is to examine them for

ourselves, and to develop solutions that will prove efficacious in achieving the progressive goals

we set. The answers are there, but we cannot holistically address the problem by only seeing the


In essence, the violence that we are experiencing at record levels within our communities are the

results of our failure to properly socialize and educate our children. We have not prepared them

to go out and compete in a world that is innately hostile toward them. We have not created

systems that provide the support necessary for them to thrive without acquiescing to the demands

of those who operate in a dynamic that is antithetical to their survival and success.

It is time that we invest ourselves in effectively engaging our problems, not on the surface, but at

the origin. ~ Dr. Rick Wallace, Ph.D.


Boykin, A., & Toms, F. (1985). Black Child Socialization: A Conceptual Framework. Thousand

Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Caughy, M., O'Camp, P., Randolf, S., & Nickerson, K. (2002). The Influence of Raical

Socialization Practices on the Cognitive and Behavioral Competence of African

American Preschoolers. Journal of Child Development.

DeGruy, J., Brennan, E. M., & Briggs, H. E. (2009). The African American Adolescence

Respect Scale: The Measure of Prosocial Attitude. The University of Portland, 1-3.

Peters, M. (1985). Ethnic Socialization of Young Black Children. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage


Rodriguez, J., McKay, M. M., & Bannon, W. M. (2009). The Role of Racial Socialization in

Relation to Parenting Practices and Youth Behavior: An Exploratory Analysis. National

Institute of Health.

Stenvenson, H., Herrero-Taylor, T., Cameron, R., & Davis, G. (2002). Mitigating Instigation:

Cultural Phenomenological Influences of Anger and Fighting Among "Big-Boned" and

"Baby-faced" African American Youth. Journal of Youth and Adolescence.

Stevenson, H., Davis, G., & Abdul-Kabir, S. (2001). Stickin to, Watchin Over and Gettin With:

An African American Parent's Guide to Discipline. San Francisco: Josey-Bass.

Ward, J. (2000). The Skin We're In: Teaching Our Teens to be Emotionally Strong, Socially

Smart and Spiritually Connected. New York: Simon and Schuster.

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