Black on Black Crime: Really?

Black on Black Crime: Really?

Saturday, July 20 rally to “end the senseless violence, to demand justice for Trayvon Martin, to focus on healing, to honor the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King and to seek a brighter tomorrow.” Photo by Bill Hughes.
Saturday, July 20 rally to “end the senseless violence, to demand justice for Trayvon Martin, to focus on healing, to honor the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King and to seek a brighter tomorrow.” Photo by Bill Hughes.

This article originally appeared on ZNet.

I would think that white people would not want to bring up the subject of violence to African Americans whose ancestors were slaves. Black on black crime? Really? 

That subject is the popular go-to issue that stalks the Trayvon Martin tragedy like a cowardly, failed martial arts student stalks his victim – with a gun. Since the George Zimmerman controversial verdict that has galvanized civil rights activists and even moved the most dedicated couch potatoes out of their barcoloungers, that’s been the buzz. Many people, including the president, are calling for an honest, serious conversation on race. Is that what the race conversation consists of, putting the worst of the “least of these” under indictment? Do we really want to put a bull’s eye on the poorest, most underserved segments of the population and take aim? 

I will be willing to talk about black on black crime with disapproving critics when they are willing to tell me why the Sopranos, white on white crime depicting the Italian mob, had the highest rating ever (11.9 million viewers) in their season finale. White on white Mafia violence is romanticized and making big money in American culture. (How many choice quotes of “The Godfather” can you rattle off?) Violence? Really?

You don’t want to go there with me. 

Crime and violence in poor neighborhoods has nothing to do with race. It has to do with poverty. Most black people who have a piece of the American pie are not shooting each other or anybody else. The “black on black crime” mantra is racist on its face because blacks are the only people burdened with this label. 

According to Justice Department statistics, 84% of whites in America kill other whites. A British organization, City Report, UK, whose mission is to safeguard communities from violence, had this to say:

But it has always been members of your own community who are most likely to be violent towards you, it doesn’t matter whether you are Black, White or Asian. Data released on murders within England and Wales over the last 3 years (2008 to 2011) confirms that it is White people who are most likely to be killing White people, and that Black on Black murder or Asian on Asian murder is less likely than White on White murders.

As for “black on black” crime, black people are no different than anybody else. We kill who is close to us. But let’s face it, the face of crime in America is…well, Trayvon Martin. The liberty loving, flag-waving Constitutional 2nd Amendment wizards on the Right are determined to make this dead Sanford teenager into a thug. And he’s dead. Very prematurely, I might add. And his murderer, the very portly George Zimmerman is alive and well, eating his way to an undisclosed location, as far as I can tell. However, in the category of crimes committed by whites, this white Hispanic is a lightweight. When white men want to kill, they really go all out. Think of the word “postal” that has been coined to describe people showing up at work with a score to settle and guns blazing. Does a black face come to mind? 

Or think of the depressed out-of-work husband and father who is so overcome with shame because he cannot support his family that he comes home and wipes them out (with the obligatory suicide to punctuate the event). Did the image of a black man flash before you? 

Mass shootings: the Santa Monica rampage, the Mohawk Valley shootings, the Newtown massacre, the Sikh temple shooting, the Aurora theater melee, the IHOP killing, Tucson, the Virginia Tech massacre…I could go on. In any of these cases, did a community where “it never should have happened” come to mind, or an urban neighborhood full of angry black men? Is there a dark face lurking in your mind? 

And finally, when you think of the National Rifle Association (NRA) gripping their guns and the U.S. Constitution in cold, dead, Charlton Heston hands, does a black face loom? As they prescribe more guns as a solution to violence, do visions of sinister, dark hoodies and low-slung pants dance in your head? 

If the images that those events stimulated look more like Adam Lanza of Newtown than Trayvon Martin of Sanford, there is a reason for that. 

The United States statistics on mass shootings outnumber all other countries, “civilized,” industrialized, or otherwise. Mother Jones published a timeline of mass murders from the l980s to the present and found that the overwhelming majority of killers were white males., a criminal justice blog had this to say about “going postal”:

“Over 80% are male, usually white and over the age of 30.” 

Finally, in an article titled, “Why Whites Commit Crimes, But Blacks Are Criminals,” the author puts violence in a historical context, always so inconvenient for people trying to expound on the brutality of a people who were lynched over 100 years as an amusement for a picnic lunch.

The premise of the article is that blackness and criminality have been “embedded into the consciousness of white Americans for over a century.” It then goes on to talk about white violence.

…There has never been a shortage of violence committed against African Americans ever since the first slave ship arrived on American shores. This violence resulted in the deaths and subjugation of millions of people, In some parts of the country, many black males were lynched. Even worse, those lynchings were a social event … So it's logical to ask, why are African Americans the only group that is carrying the burden of criminality in America, despite being the victims and not the perpetrators of the most atrocious acts of violence that took place in the country's history?

Many black women were lynched, too. According to the book, NAACP: Thirty Years of Lynching in the U.S. 1889-1918, Mary Turner was eight months pregnant when she was lynched. She was hanged, gasoline and oil poured on her, and set afire. “One white man sliced her open and Mrs. Turner’s baby tumbled to the ground with a “little cry” and the mob stomped the baby to death and sprayed bullets” into her.

No, violence is not a safe topic for white people to discuss with African Americans. They really don’t want to go there.


Auset Marian Lewis

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"5707","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"220","style":"width: 209px; height: 220px; float: left; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px;","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"209"}}]]Auset Marian Lewis is a writer living in Baltimore.