"Black on Black Crime" Is A Myth, And Here's Why

by Sa'iyda Shabazz
Originally Published: 
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Whenever black people try to talk about police brutality, it is inevitable that a white person will come in and say, “But what about black-on-black crime?” — as if members of a community killing each other negates the fact that police officers are killing unarmed members of the communities they’re paid to serve and protect. One has nothing to do with the other.

Let me say that again for the cheap seats. POLICE BRUTALITY HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH “BLACK-ON-BLACK CRIME.”

So Barbara, before you start asking that question in the comments section of literally every article about police brutality and black people, lemme shine some more light on it for you.

“Black-on-black crime” is a myth. That’s right — it was created by white people to make black people look like dangerous hoodlums and killing machines. This way it keeps the ghettos filled with low-income black people, keeps them incarcerated at disproportionate rates, and perpetuates the ideation that black people (and more specifically, black men) are nothing but thugs. But research shows that “black-on-black crime” as white people know it doesn’t exist.

I’m sure you’re shocked. Keep reading then, for some real eye-opening shit.

Do you want to know why it’s not actually a real thing? Simple statistics. According to the FBI crime reporting data for 2016, 90.1% of black people are murdered by other black people. But 83.5% of white people are murdered by…white people.

You know why this is? Our nation is still largely segregated by race, so it stands to reason that crimes committed will likely occur against someone of the same race as the perpetrator. Most of the time, a victim knows their assailant. So you’re more likely to be killed by your third cousin Ray Ray than you are by the black guy in the hoodie walking behind you. This has nothing to do with one race being more predisposed to violent behavior than another. Nice try though.

But when a white person gets murdered by another white person and the entire internet is sitting around asking for thoughts and prayers, you don’t see black people sliding into the comments like, “What about white-on-white crime?” Why? Because we’re not that ignorant, thank you very much. We know that there’s a time and place for everything, because you know, common sense.

When you see people expressly and specifically speaking on police brutality, why do you need to undermine the conversation? Because bringing up “black-on-black crime” in that moment is nothing but derailment of the original — and very critical — point. Co-opting a conversation like that just makes you look ignorant.

Yes, I said ignorant. You’re missing the entire point of the conversation. Police brutality is a real problem, and it’s not going away anytime soon. So we absolutely must keep discussing it, and we won’t stop until black folks can feel safe during a routine traffic stop.

If I’m over here saying that it wasn’t fair that a group of police officers attacked Eric Garner and choked him to death and you come back with “Well, what about black-on-black crime?” here’s what I know about you: You are justifying the murder of an unarmed black man who can’t possibly defend himself. That’s not a good look.

And by your logic, because black people are already killing each other, then why should the police officer, who was “just doing his job,” be held accountable? I mean, “the blacks” are already doing it to themselves (by your logic), so let’s not punish officer Chad for murdering an innocent person, right?

You might not be saying this out loud (plenty of you are though), but often what you don’t say speaks louder than what you do say.

And you know what else?

Black men are nearly 3 times more likely to be killed by police than their white counterparts.

That statistic right there is why we as black people do whatever we can do to fight police brutality. It’s why we take to the streets, why we take a knee, why I write articles like this one — because our lives are in danger. Our kids’ lives are in danger.

A 12-year-old black boy was shot dead in mere seconds on a playground because a police officer thought his toy gun might be real. They shot a young child without a second thought, simply because he was black.

While we are mourning that loss, do not start with “Well, what about the gang bangers who do drive-by shootings?” Not the same. Not even a little bit. It’s racist to even attempt to draw that parallel, so stop.

But for those of you who just can’t let it go, trust that we are working on ways to address “black-on-black crime.” See, we’re not pretending it doesn’t exist, but we know when to talk about it. There are many community groups all over the country that deal with “black-on-black crime.” Our refusal to discuss them in acknowledgment of your off-base, ignorant comments is not pretending they don’t exist.

The biggest thing is coming back to my original point; talking about “black-on-black crime” during a discussion of police brutality is justifying the use of force and murder against POC by law enforcement officials. This is a real, critically important issue. Lives depend on addressing this issue as swiftly as possible. Shifting the focus doesn’t make the problem go away, so stop trying to make innocent black folks take responsibility for our bad seeds without taking responsibility for your own.

The real threat in this country has always been white men who are a product of the white supremacist patriarchy that we are still operating under, so why don’t y’all channel that misplaced worry into collecting your people? That would make us all safer.

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