By: Sunny Spears
“Black on Black Crime” is an issue. Headline after headline, there are seemingly increasing tragedies of “Black on Black Crimes” in cities like Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, Houston, Louisville, St. Louis, and Lexington. It is an issue recognized daily by millions of Americans every time someone reads the news. It is also recognized by millions of Black Americans every time someone learns of the death of a son or cousin who was killed by a classmate or neighbor. “Black on Black Crime” is the term used to label violent crimes in Black neighborhoods, with Black victims, committed by Black people. The term gained prevalence in the 1960’s during the War on Drugs. However, the use of the term “Black on Black Crime” creates an entirely separate issue than the very issue it intends to label. Since the 1960’s, the term “Black on Black Crime” has been creating false narratives for both the violence occurring and the communities in which they occur, ultimately creating the stigma that most Black people in poor neighborhoods are dangerous. A stigma the majority of people inside and outside of the community genuinely believe. From Black neighborhood activists to white political figures, “Black on Black Crime” has unfortunately once again become an everyday term, masking the socio-economic conditions of the Black communities in which they take place, consequently preventing proper solutions.
“Black on Black Crime” allows everyone to see the surface of the violence but not all of the contributing factors beneath it. A Black man killing another Black man over a drug deal gone wrong, a child shot to death by a stray bullet, and an elderly man killed for correcting a younger man. The instances occur everyday, repeatedly. Using “Black on Black Crime” to label these instances allows people to become accustomed to it, almost desensitized from the fact that lives are lost everyday. The sad reality is that “Black on Black Crime” has become the new normal for residents in poor neighborhoods. It has become so normal, most residents do not foresee a solution and detached politicians believe the appropriate call to action is prayer.
In efforts to decrease violence in the Black community and across America, gun legislation has rightfully been proposed. It is imperative that appropriate gun legislation be passed to aid in preventing violent people and the mentally ill from getting firearms and causing harm. When it comes to violence in the Black community however, gun legislation and prayer alone will not suffice. Community activists and organizers often plan meetings with city officials and state legislators. They regularly hold vigils with the families of the victims, however they too are sometimes doubtful of change with murders occurring despite their efforts. The statistics of Black people killing other Black people are significantly higher in neighborhoods that are predominantly Black and poor. It is crucial that legislators consider socio-economics when formulating solutions to prevent these killings labeled as “Black on Black Crime”. Without considering socio-economic factors, the term simply serves as a mechanism used to further target and isolate everyone in these poor Black communities
If one has not grown up in poverty, or a hostile environment, it can be quite difficult to understand the thought process of someone who has. Growing up in poor neighborhoods can often have negative psychological effects on an individual. Such effects can be passed down from one generation to the next along with continual feelings of hopelessness. Some children in these neighborhoods often see their parents work extremely hard, and yet still, have nothing to eat. Other children may have parents who are addicts, or no parents at all, but find guidance and protection in neighborhood gangs. A neighborhood drug dealer, or a respected but feared gang member can easily become a role model for youth in poor neighborhoods who do not have the exposure, means, and encouragement needed to steer them away from a life of violence. Poverty tends to push people into a dangerous survivor’s mentality, race has no influence. Unfortunately, the easiest and only survivor’s mentality many people know is of violence and crime.
Without considering socio-economics, “Black on Black Crime” falsely leads one to believe that Black people are generally, inherently, violent against other Black people in poorer communities simply because they are Black. In reality, history has proven that poor neighborhoods are the most violent neighborhoods, and Black people are the majority of the residents in many of those poor neighborhoods. Growing up and living in poor neighborhoods is no excuse for the violent crimes that occur within them, they are only contributing factors to the causes of those crimes.
When working towards decreasing violence in Black Communities, it is crucial for city officials to keep these socio-economic factors at the forefront of their resolutions. Labeling various crimes under one racially identifying factor such as “Black on Black Crimes” serves no purpose in building the community, but instead allows the community to be further fragmented.
With that in mind, community activists, planners and city officials can begin to effectively plan and implement jobs programs, education initiatives for minors and adults, rehabilitation centers, second chance programs, and quality assisted living for those within the communities to aid in preventing further violence in the community. Acknowledging the issue with “Black on Black Crime” as a label is not deflecting or minimizing the issue of violence in the Black Community, it is merely viewing the issue through a lens of substantial progress.