A new book by the political scientist Michael Javen Fortner called the “Black Silent Majority” builds off longstanding historical arguments by liberals and conservatives alike—from Bill Cosby to Richard Nixon—that black people were and are complicit in creating high rates of poverty and violence in poor and working-class black communities. The New York Times review says Fortner’s book “perpetuates a newer myth of post-civil-rights America: that nothing stands in the way of racial equality except black people’s own choices and behavior.”
Once again, the “black-on-black crime” myth has been bolstered by the mainstream. So we thought it appropriate to resurface this guide to debunking it. And added to our list of resources are the New Yorker andNew York Times reviews of the “Black Silent Majority.”
Hello, and welcome to the guide to debunking “black-on-black crime” and all of its rhetorical cousins. Black-on-black crime may no longer bethe right-wing media’s slogan du jour, but its replacements express the same sentiment.
Inevitably, when there’s an uptick of homicides in cities with sizable black populations, or to deflect from movements calling attention to the killings of black people by law enforcement, headlines like these crop up: “Black Lives Matter only When They Are Killed by White Cops”, “#SomeBlackLivesDontMatter,” and “Murder Capital Homicide Explosion in wake of Freddie Gray case dwarfs rate of similar cities.”
So we here at Fusion have put together a comprehensive list on what to do when someone you love, hate, or feel so-so about goes on about “but what about that black crime in the black community” as an alternative to talking about the deaths of black people by police. We got you. Start with: “Nah, chill. Here’s what’s actually going on.”
1. First thing to debunk? The term “black-on-black crime”:
Gary Younge over at the Nation writes:
“America is very segregated, and its criminality conforms to that fact. So the victims of most crimes are the same race as those who commit them. Eighty-four percent of white people who are killed every year are killed by white people. White people who buy illegal drugs are most likely to buy them from white people. Far from being extraordinary, the fact that black criminals are most likely to commit crimes against black people makes them just like everybody else. A more honest term than “black-on-black crime” would be, simply, ‘crime.’”
Read the full piece here
2. Gun violence in black communities is a matter of public health, and it depends on a variety of structural inequalities.
Jonah Birch and Paul Heideman break it down in Jacobin:
“Research suggests that violent crime rates are driven by a variety of social factors which tend to make American cities particularly prone togun violence against black residents. Among the most of these factors are very high levels of neighborhood segregation, concentrated un- andunderemployment, poverty and a dearth of adequate social services orinstitutional resources. Fundamentally, gun violence has to be treated like other kinds of public health problems — not as the basis for continuous, empty calls for an introspective discussion about ‘black on black violence.’ And like other kinds of public health disparities, tackling high rates of inter-personal violence requires confronting thesocial context in which it occurs.”
Read the full article in Jacobin here.