Life + Culture

Logical Fallacies: Black-on-Black Crime

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'Black-on-black crime’ is commonly raised as an argument against the work of #BlackLivesMatter and other protests against interracial violence. This argument is built upon the ugly stereotype of black pathological violence, and perpetuates the ongoing criminalization of black citizens. It propagates stop and frisk policiesschool to prison pipelinemass incarceration, and knee jerk reactions to shoot first and cry self-defense later.

The perception of rampant black violence has very real consequences, but it is poorly founded on reality. There is a pervasive fear of gun violence at the hands of young black men, even though only 4% have ever even held a gun. Indeed, only ~1% of Black people in the United State commit any violent crime in a given year.  But the statistics are rarely stated this way. Thus, as Natalie Hopkinson at The Root notes, "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."

Meantime, the rarely-bemoaned white-on-white crime pandemic is just as prevalent as black-on-black crime, if not more so. Eighty-six percent of homicides against white people are committed by other white people. Edward Wyckoff Williams notes that “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.” When whiteness is treated as the default culture, white-on-white crime is not seen as a cultural symptom, but rather deemed to be ‘normal,' understandable, or rational crime (see also: Identity in a White-Default World).

The reality is that most crime is perpetrated within race. We live in largely segregated environments, and so just as with most activities we participate in, crime occurs in a segregated fashion. Jamelle Bouie writes that it's a matter of 'opportunism and proximity': “if African-Americans are more likely to be robbed, or injured, or killed by other African-Americans, it’s because they tend to live in the same neighborhoods as each other.” Nevertheless, homicides of black victims by black perpetrators have decreased by 67% in 20 years, a much faster decline than white-on-white homicide.

Franchesca Ramsey also notes in her excellent Decoded video that questioning why we worry about police shootings of Black people when there is  'black-on-black crime' is like saying we shouldn't grieve ISIS's killing of Americans since Americans also kill other Americans.

Plus, civilians killing other civilians, while terrible, isn't the same as professionally-trained, government employees killing our citizens. It is good and right that officers receive better bias training and be held to higher standards than ordinary citizens are.

#StopTheViolence
via @sandravanopstal
Be skeptical whenever the 'black-on-black crime' argument is raised. It is most often used as a derailment, rather than out of any sincere concern for the black community. Questioning why "no one ever talks about [insert issue here]", is usually simply an indicator of the speaker's own limited exposure to a diverse array of voices. By "no one's talking about it" they actually mean "none of the people I pay attention to and hang out with ever mention it."

Bringing up violence against black people only as a debate tactic is shallow and insincere. There are many who care deeply about violence in black communities and who consistently and passionately speak out against it,  not just when convenient as a counterpoint to victims' cries of racism (as though we can't care about both!). Jamelle Bouie again states “no one has said that crime between African Americans isn’t a problem. The point is that blackness has nothing to do with it. “Black-on-black crime” is a frame that presupposes black criminality—that there’s something inherent to blackness which makes intra-group crime more prevalent and more deadly.”


More details from Colorlines
In Romans, Paul admonishes us to "watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles...By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people." and as we go about our daily lives, we must be wary of how this false argument is perpetuatedColorlines recently shared a Media Matters report that "found black suspects in crime stories far outweigh their actual representation in arrests—which is saying something, since we also know arrests themselves are racially skewed. In local news-land, 80% of suspects in New York-area thefts are black, Media Matters found. In real life, blacks represent 55% of NYPD’s arrests for theft. For assaults, TV-land sees 72% of suspects as black. Real life: 49%."

The bible also tells us "the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear." This warning against false spiritual teaching is also just as important in guarding against logical fallacies perpetuated for the sake of fear-mongering and political gain. 
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