Monday, September 26, 2016

Is "Black-on-Black Crime" a Red Herring When Discussing Black Lives Matter?

Black Lives Matter (BLM) has gained quite the traction in terms of gaining media coverage. It gained some particularly negative coverage when an umbrella organization, representing about 50 activist organizations, released its platform of demands back in August. Initially, it was a long list of far-Left projects, that ranged from Glass-Steagal to boycotting Israel and falsely calling Israel an "apartheid state." Appealing to the radical Left has not been the only criticism that BLM has received since it has tried to figure out what exactly it wants. One of the other major criticisms of BLM, particularly coming from the Right, is that of BLM not caring about black-on-black crime. The BLM movement responds to that claim by saying that mentioning black-on-black crime is a diversionary tactic, and that:

"The Black Lives Matter movement acknowledges the crime problem, but it refuses to locate that crime problem as a problem of black pathology. Black people are not inherently more violent or more prone to crime than other groups. But black people are disproportionately poorer, more likely to be targeted by police and arrested, and more likely to attend poor or failing schools....To reduce violent crime, we must fight to change systems, rather than demonizing people."

So the question of the day is whether mentioning black-on-black crime is indeed a diversionary tactic. Before continuing, I do have to say for the record, when I wrote about the relationship between African-Americans and police officers back in July, I did state that black people are more likely to be killed by police officers, that bringing up police misconduct is a symptom of racial disparity within the system, that police officers should be held to a higher standard, and I even outlined some policy reforms to help improve relationships between police officers and African-Americans.

Going back to the BLM platform released in August, the section of "End the War on Black People" demands "an end to the criminalization, incarceration, and killing of our people." I read through this platform, and I didn't find anything about addressing the crime problem in the black community. Granted, I understand that this particularly platform is less likely to represent the African-American community as a whole, and most probably represents the interest of those on the Far Left, especially when you read the anti-capitalist, pro-government language that is common on the Far Left.

Nevertheless, if we are to talk about black lives mattering, it would make sense to talk about leading causes of death in the black community since part of black lives mattering is making sure as few black lives are prematurely taken from this world.

If we look at the leading causes of black people from historical data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we see that homicide is one of the leading causes of death in the black community. In 2014, homicide was the fifth leading cause for black males, and the fifteenth leading cause of death for black females. Assuming that the number of black people shot by police in 2014 is the same as it was in 2015 (i.e., 258 people), that would mean that police shootings accounted for 3.28 percent of the 7,876 homicides in 2014, which means that "killer cops" are not what is killing so many African-Americans. The outrage is comparable to those who disproportionately get heated over mass shootings, even though mass shootings only account for about 1.5 percent of gun homicides and 0.5 percent of overall gun deaths. This is compounded by the fact that when you look at homicide rates in the United States, as well as other crimes (see FBI statistics), the crimes are intraracial, which is to say that most crime is either "black-on-black" or "white-on-white."

It is as politically incorrect as it is sad to say that "black-on-black" homicide is one of the leading causes of death in the African-American community. One of the problems is with BLM is that they are focused on a small segmentation of homicides affecting the African-American community while neglecting to fully address the rest. If the goal is for African-Americans to live long, productive lives, and if the goal is for African-Americans to have the same opportunity for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, then we have to discuss black-on-black crime since it ends the lives of so many black people.

As an article from the Washington Post brings up last year, focusing on police misconduct and crime in the black community are not mutually exclusive ideas. Much like has been done for decades, there should be civil rights protesting on these issues. However, if we are to say that blacks live matter, it shouldn't matter who takes them. As already mentioned, we do hold police officers to a higher standard, and it is more dismaying when a police officer takes another life. However, given the significantly higher number of black lives taken through non-police homicides, it should be cause for concern for anyone concerned with black lives. I think it is an error for those involved in BLM downplaying the fact that homicide and other crimes disproportionately affect the black community. It implies that the only black lives that matter are those who are taken by police officers. As this article from The Hill argues, ignoring these crime rates is something that BLM cannot afford to do.

Additionally, higher crime rates exacerbate some of the issues that BLM would like to solve, such as higher quality of education or ability to secure one's economic future. I'm not saying that police reform should be ignored or that certain disparities in policing should be neglected. What I am saying is that without talking about how crime negatively impacts African-American communities, the conversation is incomplete, especially given how intertwined the issues are to solve given disparities. Given that most crime is intraracial in nature, we can stop referring to it as "black-on-black crime." However, looking at only a few trees when you have to contend with the entire forest is shortsighted.

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