For more than a decade the New Pittsburgh Courier has displayed the local homicide count on its front page at the beginning of each month. The series is called: Under Attack by Us!
Back in 2015, CityLab published an article called: The origin of the phrase “Black-on-Black crime.” And right above the heading was a huge picture of the New Pittsburgh Courier’s Under Attack by Us series, but the subtitle stated how the phrase ‘Black-on-Black crime’ got hijacked and politically loaded.
I was confused.
Was the Courier’s image used to pay homage to the series or was the Courier being accused of perpetuating what millennials were calling “the myth of Black-on-Black crime?”
When the Black Lives Matter movement had national prominence its critics kept asking why BLM single-mindedly focused on the victims of police shootings when “Black-on-Black violence” was a plague. BLM rejected this criticism by claiming they were separate issues, but their critics compared and contrasted the “Black-on-Black crime” statistics to the actual number of Black victims of police shootings and accused BLM of misplaced priorities.
So, the intellectual wing of BLM stopped confronting their critics and attacked the phrase itself. Articles appeared online stating things like, “The myth of Black-on-Black crime was created by White supremacy as a distraction from racial injustice.” And “There is no such thing as Black-on-Black crime. Yes, from 1976 to 2005, 94 percent of Black victims were killed by Black offenders, but “racial exclusivity” (my emphasis) was also there for White victims of violent crimes—86 percent were killed by White offenders.” And since the term White-on-White crime was never introduced to the public the term Black-on-Black crime indicts race as the cause instead of socioeconomic factors.
But was any of this accurate?
To CityLab’s credit they sought out the origins of what suddenly became a controversial term. CityLab said in 1970 a columnist from the Chicago Daily Defender was invited to speak at a seminar on Black-on-Black crime. (The earliest use of the phrase in print was also found in the Chicago Daily Defender during the 1968 race riots. It said when stabbings, muggings and rapes were “Black-on-Black” they were canceled out in the mind of the White precinct commanders.) The columnist said he asked a neighborhood hustler why he “robbed and beat up Black people who are brothers?” The hustler replied, he commits crimes against other Blacks because that’s what the police will let him get away with.
So, the origin of the term is rooted in the lack of policing because Black victims didn’t matter, and not in the “racial exclusivity” of the offenders.
Recently, the USA TODAY ran this headline: Baltimore police stopped noticing crime after Freddie Gray’s death. A wave of killings followed. A retired Baltimore officer said, “What officers are doing is they’re just driving looking forward. They got horse blinders on.” The report said, “The surge of shootings that followed has left Baltimore easily the deadliest large city in the United States. Its murder rate reached an all-time high last year; 342 people were killed…Starting in 2014, a series of racially-charged encounters in Ferguson, Missouri, Chicago, Baltimore, and elsewhere cast an unflattering spotlight on aggressive police tactics toward Black people. Since then, cities have been under pressure to crack down on abuses by law enforcement.”
Professor Donald Norris, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, reviewed the data and stated the outcome of the change in policing resulted in more people getting away with murder. Peter Moskos, criminal justice professor and a former Baltimore officer, also reviewed the data and said, “Cops are doing as requested: Lessening racial disparity, lessening complaints, lessening police-involved shootings. All the numbers are just great now, and if those are your metrics of success, we’re winning. The message has clearly gotten out to not commit unnecessary policing.”
The current crisis in Baltimore is rooted in the origins of the term “Black-on-Black crime.” This is not a myth. But if I pointed this out to the BLM intellectuals I bet they’ll say: Metrics matters.
(J. Pharaoh Doss is a contributor to the New Pittsburgh Courier.)
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