Black Oklahomans make up only 7.4 percent of the state’s population but accounted for about 34 percent of homicides in the state in 2011, making the state fifth in the nation for black homicide victimization, according to a national study.
Of 219 homicide victims in the state in 2011, 74 were black, according to data cited in the study, “Black Homicide Victimization in the United States.”
In the study, the Violence Policy Center, a national nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., used FBI data from the most recent year available, 2011, to calculate the homicide rate of black victims per 100,000 residents for each state. Oklahoma’s rate was 25.51 black victims per 100,000 Oklahomans.
The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation has more recent data showing that 34.7 percent of Oklahoma homicide victims in 2012 were black.
In Tulsa, 46.9 percent of victims in 2013 and 56.5 percent of victims in 2012 were black.
In 2011 Tulsa police investigated 54 homicides, in more than half of which — 28 — the victims were black.
Tulsa Police Sgt. Dave Walker, who leads the Homicide Unit, said the race of homicide victims isn’t a concern to homicide detectives, who want to solve murders regardless of victims’ identity.
“I don’t know that it makes a difference to us what the race is,” he said. “That’s for the bean counters, I think.”
But Marvin Blades, a former Tulsa police officer and president of 100 Black Men of Tulsa, said the disproportionate number of blacks being killed has been occurring for years and that not enough is being done to combat it.
“When you start pairing the drug culture and you match that with the gang culture, then we’ve got a monster, and that’s what we’re dealing with now,” he said.
Nationwide, more than 6,300 black people were killed in 2011, according to the study. The likelihood of a black person’s becoming the victim of a homicide is nearly four times that of the homicide rate for all races combined.
“The sad thing is I think people have become so … desensitized to hearing that kind of thing that it doesn’t bother them as much as I think it should,” Blades said. “I think if it bothered people more we’d have more done about it.”
Blades finds the decades-old war on drugs, coupled with the erosion of the nuclear family and subsequent lack of positive male role models, to be factors contributing to the trend. 100 Black Men of Tulsa pairs black youths with successful black men to show them that failure and a life of crime don’t have to be their destiny.
“They see that ‘I don’t have to live the way that I’ve been living,’ and being exposed to that type of person and that lifestyle, a lot of times, is enough to get that young person to change the way they live,” he said.