July 2016 #BlackLivesMatter Reader (UPDATED)

Guiding Question: Why do we read and hear incessantly about black-on-black crime, but nothing about white-on-white crime?

Failsafe from Son of Baldwin

To begin, the fact that the term “black-on-black crime” exists in our lexicon, but not the term “white-on-white crime,” is one of the clearest signs that racism is a guiding principle in this country. And all one needs to do is look at the facts: 94% of all crimes committed against black people are committed by black people; 86% of all crimes committed against white people are committed by white people.

Surely, 86% is a number at which we can safely say that white-on-white crime is a very serious problem. Yet, we never do. The term is not in the dictionary. There is no Wikipedia entry for it. It is not browbeaten into the public consciousness. The media makes little to no mention of this term. There are no news specials dedicated to looking at this problem. Neither Oprah nor President Obama have touched on the topic.

As a result, black people are scapegoated and pathologized as especially criminal when, in reality, we are merely, pretty much, keeping pace with the rest of a society that thrives on violence. If black people are being asked to focus on black-on-black crime, then why aren’t white people being asked to focus on white-on-white crime? Why are some people so focused on black-on-black and black-on-white crime, but get upset when we focus on white-on-white or white-on-black crime?

Five Myths About Crime in Black America–and the Statistical Truths

crime_myths

After the bombing / speech at Ford Auditorium, Malcolm X

They used the press to make it look like he’s the criminal and they’re the victim. This is how they do it, and if you study how they do it [t]here, then you’ll know how they do it over here. It’s the same game going all the time, and if you and I don’t awaken and see what this man is doing to us, then it’ll be too late. They may have the gas ovens already built before you realize that they’re hot.

One of the shrewd ways that they use the press to project us in the eye or image of a criminal: they take statistics. And with the press they feed these statistics to the public, primarily the white public. Because there are some well-meaning persons in the white public as well as bad-meaning persons in the white public. And whatever the government is going to do, it always wants the public on its side, whether it’s the local government, state government, federal government. So they use the press to create images. And at the local level, they’ll create an image by feeding statistics to the press — through the press showing the high crime rate in the Negro community. As soon as this high crime rate is emphasized through the press, then people begin to look upon the Negro community as a community of criminals.

And then any Negro in the community can be stopped in the street. “Put your hands up,” and they pat you down. You might be a doctor, a lawyer, a preacher, or some other kind of Uncle Tom. But despite your professional standing, you’ll find that you’re the same victim as the man who’s in the alley. Just because you’re Black and you live in a Black community, which has been projected as a community of criminals. This is done. And once the public accepts this image also, it paves the way for a police-state type of activity in the Negro community. They can use any kind of brutal methods to suppress Blacks because “they’re criminals anyway.” And what has given this image? The press again, by letting the power structure or the racist element in the power structure use them in that way.

A very good example was the riots that took place here during the summer: I was in Africa, I read about them over there. If you’ll notice, they referred to the rioters as vandals, hoodlums, thieves. They tried to make it appear that this wasn’t — they tried to make it — and they did this. They skillfully took the burden off the society for its failure to correct these negative conditions in the Black community. It took the burden completely off the society and put it right on the community by using the press to make it appear that the looting and all of this was proof that the whole act was nothing but vandals and robbers and thieves, who weren’t really interested in anything other than that which was negative. And I hear many old, dumb, brainwashed Negroes who parrot the same old party line that the man handed down in his paper.

Here’s why I’m skeptical of Roland Fryer’s new, much-hyped study on police shootings, Dara Lind

So when the Times article summarily dismisses existing data as “poor,” and doesn’t explain what that data actually is, that should be a red flag — a clue that the article’s author isn’t going to provide you with an explanation of why this new data is so much better than the old data, and you’re going to have to do that yourself.

When Fryer (an economist by training) tells the Times that he got interested in police shootings because of “his anger after the deaths of Michael Brown and Freddie Gray,” and (in Fryer’s words) “decided I was going to collect a bunch of data and try to understand what really is going on,” that should be another humongous red flag.

It implies that Fryer assumed he was doing something pioneering, rather than asking first what work was already being done and what he could add to the existing conversation. This is something that often happens when people in “quantitative” social sciences, like economics, develop an interest in topics covered in other social sciences — in this case, criminology: They assume that no rigorous empirical work is being done.

See also Three Problems With How the NY Times Highlights a Non-Peer Reviewed Study Allegedly Showing No Racial Bias in Police Shootings, Sarah Beller, and A Multi-Level Bayesian Analysis of Racial Bias in Police Shootings at the County-Level in the United States, 2011–2014Cody T. Ross

A Nixon Is an Agnew Is a Wallace, Bayard Rustin (New York Amsterdam News, 24 August 1968, p.12, col. 3) [1]

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The Near Certainty of Anti-Police Violence, Ta-Nehisi Coates

To understand the lack of police legitimacy in black communities, consider the contempt in which most white Americans hold O.J. Simpson. Consider their feelings toward the judge and jury in the case. And then consider that this is approximately how black people have felt every few months for generations. It’s not just that the belief that Officer Timothy Loehmann got away with murdering a 12-year-old Tamir Rice, it is the reality that police officers have been getting away with murdering black people since the advent of American policing. The injustice compounds, congeals until there is an almost tangible sense of dread and grievance that compels a community to understand the police as objects of fear, not respect.

What does it mean, for instance, that black children are ritually told that any stray movement in the face of the police might result in their own legal killing? When Eric Holder spoke about getting “The Talk” from his father, and then giving it to his own son, many of us nodded our heads. But many more of us were terrified. When the nation’s top cop must warn his children to be skeptical of his own troops, how legitimate can the police actually be?

Death in Black and White [2]

In the wake of these deaths and the protests surrounding them, you, white America, say that black folks kill each other every day without a mumbling word while we thunderously protest a few cops, usually but not always white, who shoot to death black people who you deem to be mostly “thugs.”

That such an accusation is nonsense is nearly beside the point. Black people protest, to one another, to a world that largely refuses to listen, that what goes on in black communities across this nation is horrid, as it would be in any neighborhood depleted of dollars and hope — emptied of good schools, and deprived of social and economic buffers against brutality. People usually murder where they nest; they aim their rage at easy targets.

It is not best understood as black-on-black crime; rather, it is neighbor-to-neighbor carnage. If their neighbors were white, they’d get no exemption from the crime that plagues human beings who happen to be black. If you want interracial killing, you have to have interracial communities….

Whiteness is blindness. It is the wish not to see what it will not know.

Aren’t more white people than black people killed by police? Yes, but no., Wesley Lowery

According to the most recent census data, there are nearly 160 million more white people in America than there are black people. White people make up roughly 62 percent of the U.S. population but only about 49 percent of those who are killed by police officers. African Americans, however, account for 24 percent of those fatally shot and killed by the police despite being just 13 percent of the U.S. population. As The Post noted in a new analysis published last week, that means black Americans are 2.5 times as likely as white Americans to be shot and killed by police officers.

Walking While Black in the ‘White Gaze,’ George Yancy

A black boy carrying a telescope wasn’t conceivable — unless he had stolen it — given the white racist horizons within which my black body was policed as dangerous. To the officer, I was something (not someone) patently foolish, perhaps monstrous or even fictional. My telescope, for him, was a weapon.

In retrospect, I can see the headlines: “Black Boy Shot and Killed While Searching the Cosmos.”

That was more than 30 years ago. Only last week, our actual headlines were full of reflections on the 1963 March on Washington, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and President Obama’s own speech at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to commemorate it 50 years on. As the many accounts from that long ago day will tell you, much has changed for the better. But some things — those perhaps more deeply embedded in the American psyche — haven’t.  In fact, we should recall a speech given by Malcolm X in 1964 in which he said, “For the 20 million of us in America who are of African descent, it is not an American dream; it’s an American nightmare.”


[1] Courtesy Louis Moore.

[2] See earlier version Dyson was asked to revise: What White America Fails to See.

2 comments

  1. JaDonnia B.

    That was so powerful and the references to the philosophies of those who came before us continues to remain relevant today. What we experience today between the races and the mindsets instilled in so many of us, white and black represents the continuation of a stage long set. Designed to derail the black family’s, esp. males, from enjoying equal freedoms and upward mobility in this country, Willie Lynch was backed by laws and practices that are plaguing us today. Without full rewrites of our foundational documents, which upheld these inhumane practices, we will still subscribe to these old messages as believers.
    The sad truths about all that goes on, in light of ‘advances’ and ‘changed’ mindsets, laws, and policies, is that there are still deeply embedded systemic racism that lives through those centuries old papers. Same story, just different tactics…malign those who’ve been victimized and maligned for “umpteen” years, and then set conditions to complement the philosophy, until they believe it themselves.
    We must remain diligent, consciously aware, and resilient until the only choice left is that things WILL HAVE TO change. And…each one must teach one, so we may exercise the collective power of one unified voice. Enough already!

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