Exposing the Myth of Black-on-Black Crime

Los Angeles demonstrators march in support of slain teen Trayvon Martin. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)
Los Angeles demonstrators march in support of slain teen Trayvon Martin. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

Jamelle Bouie writes at the American Prospect that the only reason conservatives and others focus on black-on-black crime as an issue separate from white-on-white crime is to defend widespread suspicion of black males, especially those who are young.

In writing about the myth of "black-on-black crime" this week, I've gotten a huge number of responses, from both sides. The disagreement, in particular, has taken the form of incredulousness. For example, here's Rod Dreher of The American Conservative, who says that the Zimmerman verdict has caused me to "lose my mind":

"Jamelle Bouie today wrote a Daily Beast post tied to the Trayvon Martin situation, claiming that the fact that nearly all black murder victims in America are killed by blacks just goes to show that there is no such thing as black-on-black crime, and that the concept is ginned up by white people to justify their fear of black masculinity and black criminality. Bouie also says that NYC's stop-and-frisk program is racist, and not justified by statistics — this, even though NYPD stats show that 96 percent of all shooting victims are black or Hispanic, and 97 percent of all shooters were black or Hispanic," Dreher writes.

"These statistics are so clear, so consistent, and so overwhelming that it defies rationality to claim that the youth of black males is being stolen by the likes of George Zimmerman. It's being stolen by other young black men," Dreher continued.

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. But that's nonsense, and all it does is obscure the history that brought us to this point. After a century of anti-black violence and public policy—of manufactured ghettos, forced hyper-segregation, and state-supported peonage—is economic perilousness and heightened violence among the victims and descendants of those people really a shock? And if it isn't, then why would talk about crime in these communities as a factor of blackness, and not of history and circumstance?


Read Jamelle Bouie's entire piece at the American Prospect.

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