The phrase black on black crime is in another subtle tool to perpetuate the narrative that black people in America do not value each other as much as other groups do. Which ultimately gives room for those who want to construct a stronger argument for why black people deserve what they get. They deserve to be treated unfairly and as second-class citizens, I mean, look at how they treat each other. Many black people themselves have also adopted this psychology; which is ridiculous, but sadly true. How can a black man or a woman say, “That’s why we can’t have anything” without including themselves? How can they lose faith in their community and with people share essentially the same historical setbacks and not give up on themselves? You see, this is the danger of allowing phrases like black on black crime roll off of our tongues without looking deeper into how the phrase came about in the first place.
Research will show that most car accidents happen within 25 miles from home. Why? Because on the day to day basis, we travel relatively close to our homes. Society’s most despicable crimes such as murder and rape are mostly likely done by the hands of someone who actually had a relationship with the victim. These are consequences of one of geography’s fundamental themes, which is proximity. I’ll come back to this point later.
When African people were taken from the coasts of present-day Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana, Cote Ivoire, Angola and the like, to be sold into slavery, three fundamental crimes were committed by two groups, but historically, one group tends to bare more of the blame. One group involved were the Africans, who kidnapped other Africans and brought them to the coast to be sold or traded into bondage. Group two, the Europeans who packed their vessels with human cargo, trafficking millions of people across the Atlantic Ocean for centuries. In the process, millions of people and families were impacted, even to this day. But historically it is Europeans who are “blamed” for the Transatlantic Slave Trade. However, without the help of other Africans, the slave trade would not have had the lasting impact that it did. Yes, Africans kidnapped, murdered and sold other Africans into slavery. Is this black on black crime? Surely it is, but it is inaccurate and historically irresponsible if we do not include the role the Europeans played.
As an educator, I always ask my students to search for the why and more importantly how. And history makes it plain in this case. Greed was why Africans were stolen by the generations and guns is how. The Europeans supplied rival tribes with guns and ammunition, which gave them a distinct advantage over their African counterparts. In exchange for humans, they received more guns, rum and European textiles. One group had all the power, while the others were subject to being ruled and conquered by the all mighty rifle. Imagine what would happen if one group who had been subjugated for generations were actually able to get their hands on guns themselves. Can you say war?
The second theme, scarcity (the limited supply of resources), which is an economic principle, is actually a major cause of criminal behavior that transcends all cultures. After the American Civil War, millions of black people who had never known anything but bondage, were physical set free, but not economically, socially or psychologically. They were still bound to the lands that their ancestors had labored on; but this time as sharecroppers. Some created their own communities and in many cases they thrived. Some moved North to find better opportunities. But the majority were still clumped together into poorer areas of town. Their opportunities were limited. Their resources were limited. And at times of desperation, anger and frustration, they would fight each other, steal from each other and sometimes even kill one another. In those days it was seen as a black man’s quarrel. Today it has been labeled as black on black crime.
History has a funny way of repeating itself. Even though the AK-47 was invented in Russia, during a time when the United States and the Soviet Union were sworn enemies, these high-powered assault rifles have found their way in the hands of street gangs in places like Southside Chicago, Illinois, Northwest Miami-Dade County, Florida and South Central Los Angeles; all places with historically large black populations and a legacy of being under-served. I almost forgot to mention redlining, housing discrimination, unfair hiring practices, mass incarceration, double-digit unemployment rates and legalized segregation. Yet, I digress. According to 2014 U.S. Census Bureau, the sad truth is, 90% of homicides against a black person will be committed by another black person. But at the same time 82% of homicides against another white person will be committed by another white person. With an 8 point differential, I might be inclined to say that white on white crime is also getting out of hand.
Therefore, to utter the phrase black on black crime, without acknowledging the historical disenfranchisement of black people in America, is like having a discussion about the Declaration of Independence without addressing British Rule, the Montgomery Bus Boycott without segregation laws or the Holocaust without mentioning the Nazis. You would not do so because it would demonstrate either a lack of understanding of the historical implications of these landmark events or that you are simply misinformed all together. So what is black on black crime really? It is an unfair label. It is the illegitimate child of American History. America did everything in its power to conceive it, but now wants to pretend as if it manifested on its own.