Ferguson: Black-on-Black crime distracts from real issue
With Ferguson, Mo., continuing the grotesque tradition of killing unarmed black teens and adults (Michael Brown, Renisha McBride, Eric Garner, John Crawford, Trayvon Martin, Amadou Diallo, Oscar Grant and so many more), it is astounding that the media and the nation at large still hide behind the idea that black men and their communities are at fault. No one is ignoring so-called black-on-black crime. Across the board, discussions of crime within the black community transform into a moral accusation of the community. Instead, we should be prompting a national discussion on the improper-labeling of black teens and adults as “thugs” or the benefit of the doubt that is afforded to white men at the expense of everybody else. We, as a nation, have adopted a policy of changing the subject instead of combating this epidemic. Focusing on black-on-black crime mislabels the issue. Doing this detracts from actual problems like racial profiling, police violence and systematic racism, and hinders our already broken progress.
Most violent crimes occur between people who are acquainted with one another and in communities with histories of unemployment and underemployment, which leads to the belief that black communities inherently foster violence. Nationally, violence is segregated by race with approximately 85 percent of crimes against black victims being committed by black perpetrators and the same percentage holding true for white crime.
“Our violence is segregated, just like your neighborhood,” said the team that created the movie “Dear White People,” which is aimed at dispelling myths and beliefs about race in America, in a PSA about the lie of black-on-black crime.
Relegated to a sort of “background noise,” many think that people of color simply ignore these problems. That is simply not the case.
“It’s almost as if Stop The Violence never happened, or ‘The Interrupters’ never happened, or Kendrick Lamar never happened,” said Ta-Nehisi Coates, a correspondent for The Atlantic. All of these were incredible efforts by black activists and recording artists to counteract the systematic oppression of people of color and to reduce intercommunity violence.
Ironically, we continue to face the same self destruction prophesied by Stop the Violence activists in 1989, who released a song of the same name (“Self Destruction”) as an effort to combat this problem.
“Racism is a deep-seated issue and will require honest dialogue and radical change among numerous institutions (schools, the criminal justice system, etc.) to enact lasting change that will reduce the rate at which black people are unjustly killed,” said Maria Moore, program director of African American Student Affairs, in an email.
But what can we do to combat the systematic oppression of an entire population in a nation that has historically subsisted on a diet of white supremacy and privilege? Moore has somewhere for everyone to start.
“Educate yourself on the way institutional and structural racism affects black people and people of color on a daily basis,” she advised. “Africana Studies offers some great classes on the black experience and the history of African people across the world. Some misunderstand the purpose of Ethnic Studies in general, but, in reality, these programs do tremendous work to correct stereotypes and myths about marginalized groups and offer all of us the opportunity to reach a higher level of understanding when it comes to difference and diversity.”
So, let’s start an honest dialogue by attending events at our local cultural centers because slacktivism just isn’t going to cut it.
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