The most annoying question, ever
“Why don’t blacks get in uproar over black-on-black crime?” is a stupid question. But I’m going to give it a legitimate answer.
As a black person — and I say this because I have to unfortunately do so because we are unable to have rational discourse on the Internet — few things irk me more than seeing the following comment:
“Well, why don’t blacks get in uproar over black-on-black crime?”
Well, I am going to answer that for you.
I’ve seen this from conservatives and even black writers that try to take a contrarian-yet-perspective tone in matters of uproar and unrest when someone black dies while being detained by usually white law enforcement officials. I’ve also seen many activists decry this question as racist or insensitive.
While I’d rather not give this question any more air than necessary, I am going to treat it as a legitimate question. I’m going to give you an answer to the best of my ability. I am not a sociologist or psychologist — I’m a finance major for crying out loud and a web developer — so this is going to be an armchair explanation to an armchair question.
Before I go any further I want to unequivocally say that yes, blacks are deeply concerned about black-on-black crime. That’s why blacks have engaged in numerous efforts in communities across the country to address it. Because a lot of this is not newsworthy and because many that ask that question are too dense or uninterested in looking into it, it’s understandable (and I use that term loosely) as to why that detail might get… missed.
So, the answer: there are three reasons why — and yes, all of them are tied to systemic racism… you know, the thing that some people will try to stretch statistics to deny exists.
The legacy of The Nadir
Sociologists and historians call the time period of American history from roughly 1890 to 1930 (some going as late as World War II), the “nadir of race relations” in the United States. This was a time period of widespread black civil disenfranchisement and anti-black stigmatization that infected all parts of society from coast to coast. Latino and Chinese Americans were not spared from this either.
Anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 blacks and Latinos were lynched during this period. The Chinese Exclusion Act lead to widespread disenfranchisement, discrimination, and demonization of Chinese immigrants on the West Coast.
For blacks — and I am focusing on blacks because of the question at hand — it was a time period where most of the social and economic gains that were made during the Reconstruction Era were invariably wiped out. The Republican Party, which was seen as the more socially liberal party, abandoned the push for black civil rights by 1890; the introduction of “lily-white” primaries by Republicans made them essentially as guilty as the conservative Southern Democrats. Even the populist William Jennings Bryan excluded blacks from his movement. Early 20th century Progressives, reacting to Gilded Age corruption, did not make black civil rights part of their cause.
Discriminatory policies were rampant across the country. Because of this, it served as a fatal blow that crippled black wealth, black society, and black communities. Even when racial animus was identified by white government leaders — such as local leaders in Tulsa after the 1921 riot and an investigative report issued in 1922 over the 1919 Chicago riot — it was often exacerbated. Los Angeles, seen as a progressive city for blacks in the early 20th century, implemented racial residency restrictions starting in the 1920s.
Altogether, this time period served as the preeminent plight of the black American. Meaningful economic and social growth was stunted; and the freedom of complete self-determination that is truly an inalienable right as human being was lost. Blackness became even more of a stigma than ever; the privilege of being able to separate race from self-identity was forever lost. To this day, America still continues to pay for these incalculable losses incurred during this era.
The affects of the Great Migration and White Flight
Blacks moved from the South in droves to the North during the Great Migration years. Hoping to escape to more tolerant Northern cities, many experienced the same issues of racial inequality there as they did in the South.
Often, blacks had to move into overcrowded areas, sometimes filled with crushing poverty, because white supremacists blocked them from moving anywhere else. It created a cycle of urban poverty that has persisted to this day.
After the Second World War, American suburbs exploded in growth as whites opted to move from heavily crowded cities to a more comfortable life (away from blacks) in the suburbs. With an inventory of vacated houses, real estate agencies often sold these homes to blacks for cheap. However, meaningful economic opportunities still largely eluded blacks; many of these areas succumbed to urban blight.
The reality is that crushing urban poverty yields a different existence. The roads that are taken to survive, secure, and sustain are different. Conflict resolution is different. Self-concept is different. Peer pressure is different. It’s a completely different world that could only be understood by those who live it.
Much of it has to do with how individuals respond and cope with that environment. It’s not an excuse, it’s an explanation. And many times, the various non-profit organizations created to address and mitigate urban issues with community-driven programs often aren’t at a scale that is big enough to address the legacy of issues that led to such a damaging present.
It’s a legacy of dehumanization and stigmatization that has destroyed black lives and black families and set black Americans on a course of recovery that will not be measured in years, but in decades.
It’s a false equivalency
The majority of black-on-black crime — specifically homicides — occur between a perpetrator and victim that have had some established relationship with each other, ranging from acquaintance to familial. It almost has nothing to do with an immutable characteristic. Most of the time, it’s going to be regarded as a result of vast socioeconomic issues. It also should be noted that black-on-black homicide rates are significant lower than what they were at their peak in the early to mid-1990s.
When law enforcement is blamed for the slain of a black person, it carries with it a legacy of black subjugation at the hands of the government. Many times it is a symbolic example of what law enforcement — and to many, whites in general — have seemingly been able to get away with doing to blacks when it comes to violent confrontations.
Moreover, interracial homicides are actually rare; because of biases in reporting criminal news, social biases, historical biases, and biases rooted in racial stereotyping, interracial homicides are going to get a great degree of more press; white-on-black especially due to its rarity, media focus, and circumstances surrounding some of these cases.
In short, black-on-black homicides are seen as an internal community issue; white-on-black homicides are seen as an external society-wide issue. Internal and external issues elicit differing public responses; in this case, it’s the historical legacy that fuels the latter. Just because two issues share a common trait (homicide), does not mean that they’re exact same thing.
False equivalencies in this debate is indeed a legacy of systemic racism. You can go to a Pew Research study on race relations that more or less expounds on this (you can view it here). Whites are significantly less likely to see their race or ethnicity as central to their identity than blacks; you would have to be dumb to think that it does not make a difference — it does.
I’m going to go close this out by saying that all of what I mentioned is just my personal observation, along with data that you could find in any government database, peer reviewed study, or historical record.
Hopefully this answers that question… as stupid as it is.