“What about Black-on-Black crime?” is a phrase commonly heard in times like these. White people love to say it. Especially, when another Black person is killed unjustly by the police, and Black people get understandably angry. Then without fail, white people will say “but, what about Black-on-Black crime?”
Let’s make one thing perfectly clear: this is not genuine concern on their part. No, this is a way for them to detract from the actual conversation. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: This idea of “Black-on-Black crime” isn’t real. So let’s just stop saying it.
In one of his excellent Twitter threads, The Root writer Michael Harriot breaks down all the reasons there’s no such thing as Black-on-Black crime. It’s not racially motivated crime — it’s just crime. “Now, the first racist fact these people will say is: ‘13% of the people (Blacks) commit 50% of the murders,'” Harriot said. Shockingly, that’s actually an accurate statistic. There’s FBI data to support it. But it’s still incredibly deceptive to take at face value.
It’s important to note that the FBI data only focuses on arrests. This means that we don’t know how many of these arrests are repeat offenders, or who was found innocent. We also don’t know about the crimes that people don’t report or don’t face arrest for. But as Harriot does, let’s play the game that all of these Black people are only committing one crime. For science purposes.
It’s true that 53.1 percent (5,025) of the 9,468 murders in 2017 were committed by Black people. But as Harriot points out, there are 47 million Black people in the United States. So if each of those 5,025 murders were committed by individual people with no repeats, that barely puts a dent in the overall number of Black people in the population. We’re talking less than half of a percent. And that means that overall, 99.98 percent of Black people are not committing murders.
In a 2013 piece for The American Prospect, writer Jamelle Bouie writes: “”Black-on-Black crime” is a frame that presupposes Black criminality-that there’s something inherent to Blackness which makes intra-group crime more prevalent and more deadly. But that’s nonsense, and all it does is obscure the history that brought us to this point.”
Black people don’t face some sort of genetic predisposition to crime. But that’s what the mythology of Black-on-Black crime perpetuates. It’s not like we’re going out into the streets and shooting each other willy nilly. But think about this: most Black people live in areas that often have a higher population of Black people. Most of the time, perpetrators are committing crimes where they already are. So if Black people are committing crimes in their own neighborhoods and areas that are mostly Black, of course the victims are going to be Black. You know for damn sure that Black people aren’t often running through white neighborhoods on crime sprees, considering we can’t even walk through those neighborhoods eating skittles or jogging without getting shot dead.
Interestingly, Bureau of Justice statistics show that Black-on-Black crime isn’t that much higher than white-on-white crime. According to a data chart Harriot shared from the BOJ, the rate of Black people killing other Black people is 63 percent. White on white crime is 56 percent — less than a 10 percent difference. But since it doesn’t fit the narrative of white people being just as violent as anyone else, we don’t talk about these numbers. Because if we did, how would white people paint themselves as victims and not a part of the problem?
It’s much easier to make everyone think Black people are the problem, in an effort to reinforce stereotypes and uphold white supremacist systems.
There are no Black parents who have a son and think, “I’m going to raise him to be a criminal.” Absolutely zero. But we are well aware that the world will criminalize our Black sons anyway.
The ideation of Black-on-Black crime uses very broad strokes to paint an entire group of people with one large brush. If all Black men are just going to shoot each other, then no one should waste their time trying to help them, right? White people can then use this as a reason to dismiss real issues like poverty, and lack of jobs, resources, and equal opportunities. Those issues are the bottom line that no one wants to acknowledge.
In one of his tweets, Harriot shares statistics from the Bureau of Justice that show the correlation between poverty and crime. Poor Black people in urban areas (51.3 per 1,000) have crime rates similar to poor white people in urban areas (56.4 per 1,000). The most interesting thing about these numbers? They show that poverty, and not race, is the real issue when it comes to crime.
So Black-on-Black crime, if it was a legitimate thing (which it is not), is yet another side effect of systemic inequality.
Here’s the thing though. It’s easier for white people to simply brush off much-needed systemic change with the notion that Black people are just thugs who have nothing better to do than act violent. But, the numbers very clearly show that this simply isn’t true. Maybe if we made a more concentrated effort to fix things like low income jobs and inadequate housing, then Black people in poverty wouldn’t feel that they have nothing to lose and turn to a life of crime to sustain themselves?
The Black community is well aware that crime is an issue that we must address. And, spoiler alert: we do address it. But again, since that doesn’t fit the narrative, white people choose to ignore it. Around the country, you can find countless advocacy groups trying to find ways to confront crime in Black communities.
Prepare to have your mind blown: What if I told you that in addition to addressing police brutality, Black Lives Matter also addresses crime within the community?
Talking to the National Newspaper Publishers Association’s black press service, Patrisse Cullors, one of the founders of BLM, said, “there’s lots of Black people, for the last 40 years, who have been figuring [out] how do we deal with harm inside of our communities.”
“The fight around intra-community violence is a fight about not only the state…but our conversation – it looks like an internal conversation – is about what do we do to take care of ourselves. Where are the spaces that we fight for our communities to have what they need so we don’t harm each other? ‘Black Lives Matter’ means a new way of fighting for freedom,” she added.
So there you have it. As much as white people want Black-on-Black crime to be a real thing that they can use to prop up their racist bullshit, it’s not. Black people as a community are actively coming together to address the number of Black folks killing each other. But the statistics show it’s not a bigger issue than the amount of white people killing each other.
Maybe now white folks will focus on the issues that cause inter-community crime, instead of thrusting the blame on Black folks for a problem that isn’t even there.
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