Why do conservatives insist on mentioning “black on black crime” in the context of discussions about police brutality and systemic racism?
• My Best Guess
They heard/saw someone else say it, and neglected to examine whether it was a great argument. It fit their preexisting notion that black people are inherently more violent and more likely to be dangerous criminals. Therefore it seemed to justify police officers’ irrational fear and over-the-top responses when dealing with random black citizens.
• Why It’s Wrong To Bring It Up (in this context)
* It’s a red herring, a distraction. It’s unrelated to the argument that policing needs reform in the U.S., or to the argument that systemic racism is real.
* It’s a strawman, a misrepresentation of our argument. No Black Lives Matter advocate has said “black on black crime” isn’t a problem. BLM is very aware of black on black crime. Many social justice advocates are working on that too.
* It’s a false equivalency. It attempts to put government-sponsored violence on the same level as violence committed by criminals. No American wants to be a victim of any criminal, regardless of the ethnicity of the criminal, but we expect it might happen because, well, they’re criminals. But none of us should expect to be the victim of criminal acts by police officers. Police officers aren’t supposed to be included in the “criminal” part of the equation. The entire idea of police forces is to put weight on the non-criminal side of the scale. But when they do commit crimes, they do it with the authority of a badge and a legal gun. And when they get caught and charged, they’re held to a lower standard of justice, when we believe they should be held to a higher standard of justice.
• When It’s Okay To Bring It Up
They’d never bring it up if they really understood statistics, or tried to be minimally informed.
Statistics also show that there really isn’t “black on black crime”. There’s just crime. Yes, most black victims of crimes are victims of black perpetrators. But the same is true for white people — most white people who are murdered are murdered by white people. Most white people who are robbed are robbed by white people. Most white people who are raped are raped by white people.
There’s a reason for this.
It’s because much of the U.S. is still segregated. Take a look around at your family. It’s a good bet that everyone in the room is of the same ethnicity as you. Yet a huge amount of crime victims are victims of their own family’s behavior. Look out the window, at your neighborhood. Statistically, it’s a safe bet that almost all of them are the same ethnicity as you, because that’s how neighborhoods play out in the U.S. And a huge chunk of crimes committed in U.S. communities are committed by people who live in the same community. Look at your city’s demographics (try the U.S. Census website, or Wikipedia). Chances are, most of the people in your city are the same ethnicity as you. And yes, most crimes committed in U.S. cities are committed by people who live in those cities.
(None of the above is true for me, of course. I’m the only white person in my household, my neighborhood is very diverse, and whites aren’t even a majority in my city. But in most cases, the above paragraph will be true.)
So it absolutely makes sense that most black victims of crime in the U.S. are victims of black perps. Because their houses are full of black people, as are their neighborhoods, and in many cases their cities. And the same is true for white people, Latinx people, Asian people, etc.
Interestingly, I’ve had two cars stolen. When I lived in a mostly white city in a mostly white county in a mostly white state — surprise! — my car was stolen by a white person. When I lived in a mostly black neighborhood in a city where people of color are the majority — surprise again! — my car was stolen by a person of color.
Now, if the conversation is about further reducing crime, tackling recidivism rates, or something where crime statistics are relevant, then yes, by all means, bring up crime statistics. But it’s still an exercise in futility (and possibly bigotry) to rail on about “black on black crime”.
• But Does It Make Them Sound Racist?
Yes, it does actually make people sound racist when you’re talking about something completely unrelated (police brutality against people of color), and someone throws in “But what about black on black crime? Y’all need to solve that first!”
But here I will diverge from many other BLM advocates and claim that no, someone shouldn’t be accused of racism simply for bringing it up. They should be corrected. Because I think most of them are simply parroting what they’ve heard others say, and haven’t dug into it very far on their own. Their friends, family, congresspersons, and president keep talking about “black on black crime” and “Chicago!” any time people of color ask for justice. After a while, even if they’re not actually bigots, the phrase starts to make sense to them.
However, if you have corrected them, and they still persist, then… Then it becomes obvious that it wasn’t about being misinformed; it was actually about believing people of color are lesser humans. And that shit is racist.