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"BLACK ON BLACK CRIME"

"The politics of respectability are, at their root, the politics of changing the subject — the last resort for those who can not bear the agony of looking their country in the eye. ( The Atlantic,Black people are not ignoring Crime. The Politics of Changing the Subject, Ta-Nehisi Coates.)



The question I am most commonly asked in response to the Black Lives Matter Movement is: What about Black on Black Crime? Why isn’t anyone speaking out against that? What about Chicago? (Chicago ALWAYS comes up).

This questions is an emotionally charged, and indiscriminate definition of urban violence ( I mean are we talking murder, assault, running into a mailbox?). The question is often used as a trope to antagonize the BLM movement by people who I would venture to say are not inserting themselves in an urban neighborhood with a high Black population anyways, and are just basing their argument off of what someone else has said to them or something they have seen on the news. The question presents as a broad stroke, but I believe

some folks are really subliminally asking,"If Black Lives Matter so much, then why isn't there a BLM protest in poor Black neighborhoods when a Black person is killed by another Black person"?

So...ok first,

Let’s talk about the origin of why the BLM movement started shall we? The BLM movement was founded by 3 Black Women-Patrice Khan-Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi, after armed civilian neighborhood watchman Robert Zimmerman was acquitted for the murder of the unarmed Trayvon Martin under the Floria Stand Your ground law that says you can basically kill a person if you feel your life is threatened. Although it was Zimmerman who was armed and Zimmerman who pursued Travon after the 911 dispatcher told him not to,  Zimmerman was acquitted  for the shooting and BLM.com was created. BLM is a movement “to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes”  (BLM, mission statement, blacklivesmatter.com)

Although the Black Lives Matter movement is also inclusive of immigration, mass incarceration reform, and gender identity advocacy, because Black people continue to be caught on video dying at the hands of some police officers and other racist vigilantes, the movement has largely been co-opted into a cultural statement against any type of discriminatory violence towards Blacks that occur as a result of Anti-Black discrimination.  The hashtag has now become a symbol to amplify racial injustice, and a spotlight on the disparities evident within the American Criminal Justice System and the words "Black Lives Matter" are the flagship banner for various decentralized chapters for racial justice across the country.

BLM is a racial justice movement, an organized response to racist acts against Black lives.

Black Lives Matter was not created to address intra-racial crime, because intra-racial crime is just...crime.

Do communities that are hard hit by intra-racial crime need to address it? Absolutely. Why wouldn't any neighborhood want to address crime? 

So then how can Black people care about Black lives and commit crimes towards each other? The same way that whites and any other race can and do. It's what humans do. It's the narrative that frames crimes committed by Black people that poses a problem for us.

Most homicides in the US are intra-racial, and most intra-racial homicides are committed because of gang activity within the same race for example, "the Charlestown, South Boston and North End neighborhoods of Boston were noted strongholds of Irish and Italian organized crime organizations during the 1960s through the 1980s that were characterized by repeated, unsolved killings by warring factions of the organizations" (Lehr and O’Neill, 2000; MacDonald, 1999; O’Neill and Lehr, 1989).


 

" Almost 85% of white people are murdered by other White people. Anyone who brings up “Black on Black crime is deflecting the real issue of over policing and brutality in some communities. Why isn’t “White on White Crime” a talking point?” (Religion and Theology Studies Professor Dr. Anthony Bradley,Twitter June,2020)  source: FBI

 

 Because Black crime statistics are more ubiquitous than White crime rates (which are virtually invisible and very seldom referenced during public discourse on crime or racism), violent crimes in US cities are generally viewed as reflective of Black humanity. When you tell a single story over and over,"The single story creates stereotypes. And the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story." -  Chimamanda Adichie, The Danger of a Single Story, TED Global, 2009.

Not only do single stories create stereotypes, they also create cultural behavioral narratives. The Black on Black crime narrative suggests Black people are expected to be at all times above reproach, and simultaneously docile and instantaneously forgiving in the face of racial injustice against us. As soon as we step outside of that narrative we are out of bounds and the BLM plight is moot. We as a culture need to honestly ask ourselves if any other racial group in America is held to this level of scrutiny?


The truth is, violence is endemic to human nature. At the same time humanity expresses violence towards itself in different capacities that create various types of specific real-world harm.Racism is creates specific real-world harm


Racial Profiling, falsified police reports, fatal chokeholds conflicting autopsy reports, rehiring officers who were fired for excessive force, stop and frisk are systemic issues and they are disproportionately affecting Black death rates of- Black Citizens of America. Racism has been transformed into a code that is pervasive in the American criminal justice system.

BLM and crime in Black neighborhoods may be running on the same track, but they are not in the same lane.  If we talk about Black on Black crime then we have to also talk about White on White crime, or Asian on Asian crime etc., if we talk about anti-Black racism, we have to say Black Lives Matter.

So what am I saying?

The Black on Black crime question  is culturally belittling because it makes CRIME the measuring stick by which we view how much Black lives matter to Black people. Our intra-racial interactions involve more than just shooting each other.

The Black on Black on crime question also brings with it the backhanded  assumption that Black people are not taking action against  crime in Black communities. There are Black led local community centers, service centers, pee wee sports teams, recreation and parks centers, community classes, community events and Black churches very heavily involved in high crime Black neighborhoods, proving that Black lives mattered to Black communities before the BLM movement started. I invite anyone who has more stats than involvement in those same neighborhoods to invest their time in them. Accusatory discussions of the  urban violence can further alienate Black residents who want to partner with the police to create safer communities. 

I think the most dangerous narrative formed from the Black on Black crime question is that it subtly implies that crimes committed by Black people towards other Black people justify the disproportionate police racial profiling, that a rap sheet condemns a person to death versus due process, and this is how we lose Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.

Whether or not you agree with the  BLM movement , the declaration "Black Lives Matter" stands firmly oppositional to the characterization of any diminishing White European Centric views of Blackness. As it rightly should. Black Lives matter outside of American history, outside of slavery outside, of White identity, outside of racism. God created lives in Black skin. We too are a progeny of His diverse Image and because of that, racism, prejudice and discrimination against us will always have a sure enemy.

Black Lives Matter.

 
Image by Gayatri Malhotra
 

Some topics to study with your group and or on your own:


Predictive Policing/Stop and Frisk-Compstat2 and community policing


Proximity- Do you know why high school fight rates are higher between high schoolers than they are between high schoolers and middle schoolers?  They are in closer proximity to each other 5 days per week than they are with any other grade level, essentially segregated from middle and elementary students. How does proximity impact neighborhood crime statistics

American Redlining and Race Covenants have contributed to a vast segregation of America’s neighborhoods  across the country. This impacts the density of proximity of racial groups in different cities. 

The Context of Disproportionality- More White deaths occur due to police shootings than Black deaths,  but Black American males are 2.5 times more likely than White Americans to be shot and killed by police officers. There are 41 million Blacks and racially mixed identifying Blacks in the US, and 223 million non-hispanic Whites (per the 2010 census).  The disproportionate arrests are affecting the Black population rates.


Structural Racism and how it impacts the justice systems.


Socio-economic impact of crime rates in urban and rural cities.


Criminalization and the Media

 
Image by Julian Wan
 

Internal/ Group Questions to challenge One Story Narratives:

What are your thoughts on the BLM movement? Were you aware of its origins?

Do you feel that crimes committed by Black people towards other Black people justify the disproportionate rates of police killings of Black people? Why/Why not?


Do you live in predominately Black, White or Multi-racially diverse neighborhood? How does that inform your views on the protect and serve oath of the police?

There is a saying that when the police are responding to a call from a "White" or less "Brown" neighborhood they are coming to help or diffuse a situation, but when they are responding to a call from a "Black" or "Brown" community they are coming to make an arrest. What are your thoughts on that?

What personal experiences (not news stories)  have shaped your views on intra-racial crime?


How have you internalized the notion that Black equates to being more violent? why?

How do you see yourself becoming involved in crime intervention programs in high crime areas?

How does a culturally, socio-economically diverse America move towards dismantling harmful narratives?

 

RESOURCES

Shadows of Doubt: Stereotypes, Crime, and the Pursuit of Justice by Brendan O’Flaherty and Rajiv Sethi

Cuz: The Life and Times of Michael A.
Michael Allen, the author’s cousin, was arrested for carjacking in LA at the age of 15, tried as an adult, and sentenced to 13 years in prison. He was released at age 26—but was murdered just three years later. In this memoir, Danielle Allen attempts to understand the tragedy of her cousin’s short life. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie called it “unbearably moving.”

The Torture Letters: Reckoning with Police Violence by Laurence Ralph
In Chicago, the prevalence of torture at the hands of the police is an open secret—three to five new claims are submitted to the Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission of Illinois each week. In The Torture Letters, a collection of open letters written to protesters, victims, and students, Ralph outlines the history of torture in the city and the rising movement pushing back against police violence.

 The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime and the Making of Modern Urban America by Khalil Gibron Muhammed

There Are No Children Here by Alex Kotlowitz The Story of Two Boys Growing up in the Other America (Henry Horner Homes Public Housing Projects of Chicago)

Push Out The Criminalization of Black Girls In Schools by Monique W. Morris

Under Our Skin by Benjamin Watson

The George Zimmerman 911 transcripts

When They Call You A Terrorist A Black Lives MatterMemoir by Patrice Kahn Cullors (co-founder of BLM.com) and Asha Bandele