And yet we keep hearing about Black-on-Black crime because it fits the false media narrative.
The truth? As the largest racial group, Whites commit the majority of crimes in America. In particular, Whites are responsible for the vast majority of violent crimes. With respect to aggravated assault, Whites led Blacks 2-1 in arrests; in forcible-rape cases, Whites led all racial and ethnic groups by more than 2-1. And in larceny theft, Whites led Blacks, again, more than 2-1.
Given this mathematical truth, would anyone encourage African Americans to begin shooting suspicious White males in their neighborhoods for fear that they’ll be raped, assaulted or murdered? Perhaps George Zimmerman’s defenders should answer that question. If African Americans were to act as irrationally as Zimmerman did, would any rationale suffice to avoid arrest?
And why is no consideration given to the fact that Trayvon Martin, and millions of Black boys and girls like him, harbor a reasonably founded fear of Whites but are hardly ever provided the deference and dignity that victimhood affords?
The term “Black on Black” crime is a destructive, racialized colloquialism that perpetuates an idea that Blacks are somehow more prone to violence. This is untrue and fully verifiable by FBI, DOJ and census (pdf) data. Yet the fallacy is so fixed that even African Americans have come to believe it.
In Michelle Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, she explains that the term was coined in the 1980s as American cities underwent transformation as a result of riots, White flight and the onslaught of the drug trade. David Wilson, a professor at the University of Illinois, documents the phenomena in Inventing Black-on-Black Violence. Wilson says that instead of attributing increased crime activity to poverty, inequality and disenfranchisement, the media chose to blame “a supposedly defective, aberrant Black culture.”
In a 2010 piece published by The Root, “The Myth of Black-on-Black Violence,” Natalie Hopkinson opines that journalists should follow the direction of the United Kingdom, where the Guardian newspaper banned the use of the phrase. A Guardian stylebook asked authors to ”imagine the police saying they were investigating an incident of White-on-White violence … ” Hopkinson concludes, “The term ‘Black-on-Black violence’ is a slander against the majority of law-abiding Black Americans, rich and poor, who get painted by this broad and crude brush.”
Trayvon Martin’s tragic death reveals the worst ills at play within America’s criminal-justice system. Not only was he murdered in large part because of dangerous, persistent stereotypes, but the failure of police to judiciously respond to the crime underscores the inequities that characterize institutionalized racism.
Those who respond to the tragedy by retreating to narratives of Black-on-Black crime seek to promote it as a defense against an innocent child’s violent homicide. This reveals how entrenched the lies have become and how eager too many people are to absolve both Zimmerman’s guilt and their own tacit consent.
African-American media and policymakers have been equally complicit in promoting a “Black-on-Black crime” anecdote, thinking that it could help address some of the community’s problems; but what it has actually done is provide support for racial profiling and promote the disproportionate policing of Black criminality as “legitimate” and “acceptable.” This over-policing has led to disproportionately higher rates of arrests in Black communities, reinforcing the idea that Blacks commit more crimes.
If we were to talk about “White-on-White crime,” then at least we’d be addressing issues like gun violence in a racially neutral way. That doesn’t happen because too many Americans remain convinced that Black or brown people are the problem. Respected journalists like George Will further perpetuate lies as fact when they make blanket statements that support an ill-conceived narrative.
This article originally appeared April 10 2012 at The Root: