Black on Black Crime? Or Just Crime?


Black on black crime…we’ve all heard the term. Not only have we heard it, we’ve responded to it and asked questions about its prevalence and what we can do about it. However, one of the critical questions we do not ask is why are we focused on Black people’s crime against other Black people when the truth is most people who are victims of crime will be victimized by people of their own racial group. Why? Because most crimes are crimes of convenience and opportunity. Given the powerful segregation in our society most people are likely to come in contact with people in their own racial group. This is especially true among the poor since they are more likely to live in hyper-segregated neighborhoods. Few criminals drive miles across town to mug somebody. When I lived in the San Francisco Bay area one of the most heinous crimes that occurred happened in Chinatown. A Chinese gang bolted through a restaurant and slaughtered the patrons…all of whom were Chinese. I did not hear anyone talk about Chinese on Chinese crime. Just saying that sounds strange.
In the academy award winning movie, “Crash” (2004) the opening scene portrays Ludacris and his partner carjacking the District Attorney. I turned to my viewing partner and said, “I’m not buying this premise!” Los Angeles is as racially segregated as any major city and the likelihood that Ludacris (I can’t remember his character’s name) would be in this fancy neighborhood filled with wealthy, White people AND committing a carjacking just doesn’t square with reality. A believable potential carjacking scene is the one in “Grand Canyon” where Kevin Kline’s character gets lost taking a shortcut, ends up in a Black community, and has a car breakdown. That would be a crime of convenience. The would-be carjackers/muggers had not planned a crime…a vulnerable person showed up in the vicinity.
I don’t want to suggest that we should not be concerned about crime in the Black community. Of course we care. But let’s be careful about the language we use to describe what is happening. When White acquaintances ask why Black people victimize other Black people I always respond, “Why do White people victimize other White people?” This simple question helps to reorient our conversation. Crime is crime and its roots are remarkably similar…inequality, addictions, greed. We have to be critical about everything people say about us (and we say about ourselves)!

Stay Black & Smart

One thought on “Black on Black Crime? Or Just Crime?

  1. Really great points! We really do need to pay attention to the language. I just had a conversation about using the term ” achievement gap” to describe what is happening in many of our schools. It places the “blame” on the student and puts no responsibility on the teacher.


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