Saying ‘Black-on-Black Crime’ is the Ultimate Black-on-Black Crime
“Yes, but what about black-on-black crime?”
I’ve heard this question or some variation of it a couple of times this week. I’ve heard it thousands of times in life. Some might assume I’m quoting some right-leaning white person, possibly a Trump supporter.
If some assumed that, some would be wrong.
Black people. Listen. We cannot afford this. We cannot allow ourselves to perpetuate the argument that we are the problem.
I know. I know. That’s not what you’re saying. You’re saying there were over 100 killings in Chicago on Father’s Day weekend. Black folks are being killed by other black folks and how can we address any oppressive systems without addressing the serious issues within our own communities.
To that, I say… you are correct.
We do need to address violence in black communities. Where you and I diverge, well-meaning-brother-or-sister, is around the idea that there is anyway to address these issues in a meaningful way without addressing systemic racism. Violence in black neighborhoods is not the disease. It is a symptom, and calling out our communities for these challenges is like giving a cancer patient a bottle of ibuprofen and sending them on their way. What’s killing us is not each other. What’s killing us is a system designed to keep us where we are, and at times, push us down further.
The privatization of the prison system, the war on drugs and a whole bunch of white men in places of power did far more to criminalize black communities than anyone living in our communities. The residual disparities of slavery, Jim Crow and segregation have produced more poverty and a bigger wage gap than any individual who won’t “pull himself up by the bootstraps and earn an honest living.”
The narrative around black people being the reason black communities aren’t thriving, was intentionally built by people in power, who assuaged their own conscience by disseminating such rhetoric.
Ibram X. Kendi said it really well in his book, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America:
“Time and again, racist ideas have not been cooked up from the boiling pot of ignorance and hate. Time and again, powerful and brilliant men and women have produced racist ideas in order to justify the racist policies of their era, in order to redirect the blame for their era’s racial disparities away from those policies and onto Black people.”
See. This is why it doesn’t bother me when racist white people bring up black-on-black crime as an argument against the existence of systemic racism. That’s been the argument from the start. It’s literally what makes the racism systemic! It also keeps them from having to address or take any ownership over their role and perhaps their ancestors’ roles in the horrific truth about the United States and its history.
But black people. We cannot join in this chorus. It’s dangerous. It’s short sighted. Most of all, when we say these things we are indirectly justifying the pain, mistreatment and killing of our people. That’s a crime against us in itself.
Stop asking that question.
Ask better questions.
Ask bigger questions.
Ask harder questions.