Now that the Los Angeles Police Department has identified a black man as a suspect in the murder of Nipsey Hussle, lets get a few things straight about the narrative of “black-on-black crime.”
1). The United States has existed for 242 years, but the phrase “black-on-black crime” only entered public discourse in 1970. Timing is everything. This was a pivotal point in the Black Freedom Struggle: black folks were fighting for and winning civil rights locally, and African nations were fighting for and winning independence from European colonizers globally. Therefore, the white capitalist establishment was in a state of crisis. To combat this, between 1956-1971, the FBI used COINTELPRO to declare an all-out war on black “militants.” This is not speculation, these are real facts. The government’s own declassified documents claim that the aim was to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, and otherwise neutralize” black leaders and movements. The notion of “black-on-black crime” is a play straight out of the J. Edgar Hoover handbook. Legend has it that every time someone says “black-on-black crime” is an actual problem, the ghost of J. Edgar Hoover smiles up at them from the eternal hell he is trapped in.
2). Black-on-black crime is a right-wing talking point. If we type the letter “B” into the search field of Sean Hannity’s web browser, “black-on-black crime” would show up first in the results. There is literally a 100% chance that the people who subscribe to this belief ALSO think that Africans are to blame for the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.
3). Since the United States is segregated, most crimes tend to be committed by someone with a similar race/class background as their victim. In fact, a great deal of crimes are committed by someone who knew their victim. Many crimes are committed by someone who lives just blocks away from the scene of the crime. There is no significant difference between white intra-racial crime rates (83%) and black intra-racial crime rates (90%). The only difference is that we readily make the racist association between blackness and violence. No one talks about white-on-white crime rates because whiteness is seen as normal, civilized, etc.
4). A major problem with the argument about black-on-black crime is that it frames the black community as an isolated group suffering from a “crabs in the barrel” mentality. Blackness, in and of itself, is viewed as inherently self-destructive. The conclusion that is then drawn is that anti-blackness only exists in the black community. Neither whites, nor the State, nor capitalism are to blame for black victimization. These rhetorical gymnastics disavow 500+ years of anti-black violence by the West (i.e. slavery, Jim Crow, colonization, poverty, mass incarceration, neo-colonization, etc). This allows white folks and those who worship at the altar of whiteness (i.e. respectability politics, assimilation, etc) to say that black people are “their own worst enemy.” The argument ends by arguing that cultural pathology – hip hop music, alleged lack of family values/morals, gang violence, etc – are the root causes of crime in black areas, as opposed to viewing crime in black areas as an outgrowth of an anti-black structure.