Challenging the Falsehoods of Black Criminality by Jamala Rogers


Every time I hear a black person utter the phrase “black on black” crime and I’m in position to have a conversation, I educate them about the pathology of the term. The phrase is barren of any sociological meaning. Only people of African descent have been made to believe that something is inherently different about the way we commit crimes against one another. It is not.

When black people don’t understand all the elements of criminality, we take on the added burden that it’s our fault and therefore, we are solely responsible for what happens to us or to our communities. We must oppose violence including violence against women while being crystal clear that state violence is very different from violence that erupts within families or among friends.

No one refers to mass murders by the like of Ted Bundy and Adam Lanza as white-on-white crimes. Bundy confessed to killing 30 young, white women but the real number is unknown. Lanza gunned down 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School. In fact, there have been about 70 mass shootings since 1982 and 40 of the killers have been white males. I’ve never heard the media refer to these heinous crimes as “white-on-white crimes.”

Any set of crime statistics bears out the fact that most crime is intra-racial meaning the background of the typical victim is close to that of the perpetrator. In a segregated America, it’s easy to predict who a black person will rob or kill. Likewise for a white person.

Most rape victims know their attackers. Most children are sexually abused by someone they know-a family member or family friend. Most murder victims are the same race as their offenders. FBI stats for 2013 show that black homicide victims are killed by black offenders at roughly the same rate that white people kill other white people.

For several years, I have written articles that spoke to the phenomena of decreasing violent crime. Even so-called black-on-black crime has decreased violent crime. Even so-called black-on-black crime has decreased over the last 20 years by nearly 70 percent. Yet you couldn’t tell it by the mainstream media or law enforcement tactics who would have you believe that black people have crime in their DNA.

Crime is sociological, not biological. Factors such as poverty, unemployment, economic inequality and failed educational systems are contributions to crime.

It’s understandable that black people think there’s more crime in their neighbourhoods. That’s because of the concentration of the above factors that collide in compressed black communities. There’s no comfort in knowing that crime is down overall when you hear gun shots or police sirens outside your door on a regular basis.

The myth of the criminality-inclined black man has it’s roots in slavery as the rationale to maintain white dominance and control at all costs. During slavery and Reconstruction when food was withheld and a black man seized a loaf of bread to eat or a black mother liberated medicine for her sick baby, these incidents were not only used to perpetuate the mythology of black criminality but also fuelled laws like Black Codes to justify the continued need for white supremacy. After the annihilation of Black Reconstruction by Plessy vs Ferguson, elements of the Black Codes crept into Jim Crow laws.

Most notable was the use of vagrancy as a crime where black folks could be convicted and sent to work on a plantation as their sentence. Petty crimes such as theft would get you the same punishment. It was an extension of the free labor afforded to whites elites under slavery. The sight of black chain-gangs in the South reinforced the perception of black criminality as did racist movies like “Birth of a Nation.”

Fast forward to 2015. Over two million people are in U.S. prisons, the highest number of any developed country in the world. Black men are over-represented in the Prison Industrial Complex – the genesis of their incarceration can be traced back to disproportionate suspension rates in school, disproportionate interactions with the police, and disproportionate rates of convictions along with harsher and longer sentences. The cycle continues and the perception of dangerous black men becomes to entrenched American reality. The mainstream media is always happy to lend a helping hand in the criminalization of African Americans.

Courtesy of “Ferguson is America” Roots of Rebellion by Jamala Rogers

 

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