It’s time to Break It Down!
Last week I wrote about Michael Brown, Ferguson, Missouri, and the expanding turmoil that has buffeted that St. Louis suburb, now entering day 12. As I engaged a cross-section of individuals in discourse about the subject, a number of those people raised a variety of issues. Some of those issues were offered as catalysts, others as part of an array of interrelated matters; some causal, others part of the multi-faceted effects.
Rather than break down the various issues into discrete categories, and spend time dissecting each one, I am going to elevate and briefly explore the one with which I take greatest exception…and for which there is wealth of easily accessible disproving data. Many of my friends and associates, and a number of media mouth pieces are quick to default to “Black on Black Crime” as the presumed elephant in the room that automatically shuts down all discourse about tragic situations such as Michael Brown being killed by a white police officer.
The typical dialogue tends to go along the lines of, “But what about “Black on Black Crime or, what about black folk who kill other black folk? Let me make this perfectly clear. I abhor situations in which people kill other people. When the victim and the perpetrator are both black, it saddens me. Deeply! To that end, I do not downplay such instances, nor give a pass to the initiators of such violence. Full stop.
Having said that, what then irritates me so thoroughly about inserting the axiomatic “Black on Black Crime label to shut down discourse when a white law officer kills an unarmed black man? I am perturbed on many levels.
First, the comparison zeroes in on two events at such polar opposite ends of the spectrum that enlisting apples and oranges does not provide metaphorical justice. When an individual kills another individual, even when unarmed, it is often a tragic matter.
However, police officers are representatives of the state (government). They are paid with taxpayer dollars to protect and serve the public. To wit, when an officer of the law uses his/her service revolver, Taser, night stick, choke hold, or any other available mechanism to kill an unarmed black man, he or she has acted as an extension of the state to kill a citizen. In too many instances, such actions take on the appearance of a state sponsored execution.
Therefore, when individuals, or groups, or the media conflate a black man killing an unarmed black man with the state, or as some may prefer, a public servant killing an unarmed black man, there is and should be a higher standard of scrutiny. This should be an automatic and systemic response. Unfortunately, we have become collectively inured to a particular narrative. “Black people are inherently prone to crime, and therefore deserving of summary justice…even when and if that justice is fatal.
That fairly long preamble was necessary to set the stage for my main point. When is the last time you heard the phrase “White on White Crime?” In all likelihood, reading it in the preceding sentence was the first time you ever even heard of such a concept. The absence of that term as a regular talking point, compared with the prevalence of “Black on Black Crime” is an example of the subtle mind-bending and thought harvesting that frames our thinking…or lack thereof.
Well, put on your big boy/big girl pants; it’s time to shatter the myth! Did you know, on a macro scale, “White on White Crime is more prevalent than “Black on Black Crime?” Don’t lie…hell no! You did not know that because no one ever told you, and why would you ever consider such a possibility, unprovoked? Consider yourself provoked.
But the point is not just irritate you, as I am irritated by the irresponsible, and inappropriate use of the “Black on Black Crime” metaphor to shut down discourse about police killing unarmed blacks. I want to share some information that can move the dial on recognizing when someone is trying to blow smoke up an orifice rather than engage you in a genuine dialogue about this important matter.
In order to be reasonably informed on the issue, there are some things you need to know, including:
- In America, a white person is almost six times more likely to be killed by another white person than by a black person (FBI Homicide Data)
- In 2011, there were more cases of whites killing whites than of blacks killing blacks
- According to Bureau of Justice Statistics:
- For the period 1980-2008 53.3% of gang homicides were committed by white offenders
- For the same period, 56.5% of gang homicide victims were white
- White men are more likely to kill than any other racial group or subset
- Other than gun violence, which is significant, white men top the list in almost all other categories of homicides
- Whites are more likely to kill children
- Whites are more likely to kill the elderly
- Whites are more likely to kill family members
- White are more likely to kill their significant others
- Whites are more likely to kill at their places of employment
- Whites commit more sex-related crimes
- Whites commit more gang-related crimes
- Studies show that blacks are no more likely than whites to use or sell drugs, and make up only 14% of regular drug users, yet blacks are more likely to be arrested for drug crimes, and they receive longer sentences than whites
A simple truth is, white people kill lots of white people and black people kill lots of black people. This is not because either group is burdened by self-hate, but because murder is usually a crime of passion, or a crime of convenience. Moreover, because we have created or inherited an intensely segregated culture, within our own subgroups is where our opportunities for interaction occur most often and most organically.
White people who commit crime are considered deviant individuals. Conversely, black people who commit crime have their actions attributed to their race. Thus Chicago gang-bangers have become a symbol that black men should be feared. Yet, there seems to be no corollary assignment of fear to white men base upon brutal murders committed by Neo-Nazi skinheads.
I am reminded of the eternal wisdom of the manager on my first real job. In response to a colleague’s protestation about the unfairness of a particular “management decision,” the boss replied, “Whoever said life was fair?”
In other words, don’t get it twisted. I’m not whining about unfair treatment. In fact, I’m not whining. I am providing a public service. It behooves all of us to recognize, confront, and dispute the myths that permeate our attempts to deal with issues of race, ethnicity, and diversity (or lack thereof) in American society. If we do not, we are bound to repeat the misadventures of Ferguson. It is long past time for “A Frank Discourse: Revealing America’s Dirty Little Secret!”
I’m done; holla back!
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