Massachusetts Daily Collegian

#BlackLivesMatter: The irony behind ‘Black-on-Black’ crime

By Josh Odam

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Activists gather in front of the White House to deliver nearly 900,000 signatures calling on the Department of Justice to fully investigate, prosecute, and fire all police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., on Wednesday, Aug. 28 2014, in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT)

Activists gather in front of the White House to deliver nearly 900,000 signatures calling on the Department of Justice to fully investigate, prosecute, and fire all police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., on Wednesday, Aug. 28 2014, in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT)

The following column is the first of many pieces addressing the race problem in the United States that will appear on this page. If there are any questions or concerns as to why I chose to capitalize “Black” and keep “white” in lowercase, please read the following author’s note from “Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness” by Touré:

“I have chosen to capitalize the word “Black” and lowercase “white” throughout … I believe “Black” constitutes a group, an ethnicity equivalent to African-American, Negro, or, in terms of a sense of ethnic cohesion, Irish, Polish, or Chinese. I don’t believe that whiteness merits the same treatment. Most American whites think of themselves as Italian-American or Jewish or otherwise relating to other past connections that Blacks cannot make because of the familial and national disruptions of slavery. So to me, because Black speaks to an unknown familial/national past it deserves capitalization.”

“I guess the heat does make people crazy…and before you know it, crazy becomes normal” – Huey Freeman, The Boondocks

This summer, we have been inundated with images of unarmed Black bodies cut down by white authority figures. These tragedies have re-opened wounds in our community (as if the wounds left from Trayvon Martin or Jordan Davis were ever healed to begin with) which have resulted in uprisings in Ferguson, Missouri.

I had the privilege of hearing commentary from individuals on both sides, but one notion constantly being reiterated was “Black-on-Black crime” i.e. Black people need to deal with violence in our own community and pay less attention to cops killing us.

It was discussed to the point where I personally had to rethink my views on the subject. After serious introspection, I reached the conclusion that Black-on-Black crime definitely exists, but it is examined through a warped and distorted societal lens. Here’s how:

1. No other group of people are pigeonholed or vilified as heavily when they commit acts of violence against their own: Maybe I’m mistaken, but white-on-white crime, Latino/a-on-Latino/a crime or Asian-on-Asian crime don’t seem to be as popular. Homicides take place within all of these groups, yet the magnifying glass is always on black people.

2. By its very existence, Black-on-Black crime invalidates any idea of a post-racial society in the United States: If we are so far removed from race, why the term “Black-on-Black crime”? Please, I beg all of you, stop using this void and meaningless term “post-racial.” There’s no such thing as “post-racial.” There’s no “post-racial United States.” Racism did not disappear after President Obama was elected. There’s no “post-racial era.” It’s a term for a concept that does not exist. Even if there was such a thing as a post-racial society, I would not live in it. However, I would like to live in a post-racist society: a world where I am not targeted, ostracized, marginalized or politically/economically disenfranchised by the color of my skin–two completely different conceptions.

3. White people kill each other too: According to reports from the United States Department of Justice, most homicides are intraracial in that 84% of white victims were killed by whites.

4. Respectability politics constantly distracts us from the larger issues: In short, “respectability politics” are an understood set of rules about how Black people should act in order to live positively in a Eurocentric environment. When we fail to carry ourselves in a “respectable” fashion, it is used as an excuse for increased police presence in communities of color. I am not advocating for sagging pants and gangs signs being thrown up. However, telling Black people to take off our hoodies, pull up our pants and turn down our music does not solve the problem of police brutality. It is merely a method of pacification to shame Black people so they shut up about actual issues.

5. The notion of Black-on-Black crime justifies increased police force. If you arm local police forces with military-grade equipment, soon their behavior will be reminiscent to troops stationed overseas. The emphasis on community policing takes a back seat to SWAT raids. Furthermore, when society at large perpetuates the idea of “Black-on-Black” crime, they are indirectly asserting that Black people are inherently violent. Therefore, due to our “naturally aggressive” disposition, a separate set of rules govern our treatment from police. Under this mindset, a militarized police, riot gear for minor offenses and a ‘shoot first’ mentality are all necessary tactics when dealing with Black suspects.

People are outraged over the murder of Michael Brown, as they should be. However, we need to be consistent with our outrage. This is not to excuse police and their occupation and terrorizing of communities of color. But the fact remains that hundreds of Black women and men shot and killed in Chicago, New York, Detroit and Oakland over the past two summers received no national moment of silence, no walkout, no rally, no day of rage, no acknowledgement whatsoever.

Intraracial violence and police brutality in the Black community cannot be viewed as isolated issues because they share a common denominator: the loss of Black life.

As people of color and as Black people, we must stand and act with the same level of indignation whenever a young sister or brother’s life is lost to gun violence.

Today, our house is on fire and when we ask for water, they bring us gasoline in the form of armored tanks rolling through residential areas. We have an obligation to secure our neighborhoods and re-sensitize this country to the loss of Black lives.

Josh Odam is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]

9 Comments

9 Responses to “#BlackLivesMatter: The irony behind ‘Black-on-Black’ crime”

  1. White with a capital W on September 2nd, 2014 8:59 am

    So you start off with an almost incoherent quote from one of MSNBC’s greatest race baiters. Then you quote a cartoon. Then you go off into BuzzFeed format, giving us boldfaced, numbered highlights, that make it easier for simpletons to skim through. Oh, and it looks like you only give one statistic, from “reports” from the DOJ. I don’t doubt the veracity of the statistic, but if that’s your only citation, do better. Let’s do a quick takedown of your “points.”
    1) Where is your proof that blacks are extra-villified? Have you ever watched any of those forensics shows? White people.
    2) People bring up black-on-black crime because of people like Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and your hero, Toure. Because every time there is a highly publicized incident like Tawana Brawley, Trayvon Martin, or Mike Brown, these clowns jump in and cry racism. And no, racism didn’t disappear when Obama got elected, and he, Eric Holder, and Sonya Sotomayor have only stoked the fires there.
    3) The US population is 77.7% white, so 84% really isnt that mind boggling.
    4) Telling people to get out of the street should not result in someone running at you and grabbing your gun.
    5) Yes, it does, because areas with more crime require more policing.
    Nice job tossing in “gun violence,” too. Though Mike Brown didn’t need a gun to be violent.

  2. Kevin Bush on September 2nd, 2014 10:57 am

    “People are outraged over the murder of Michael Brown, as they should be.” Why should people be “outraged”..and why do you call it “murder”..obviously you’ve made up your mind..based on what?

  3. Celeste on September 2nd, 2014 12:52 pm

    I think we are getting on the same page now. What to do? That is now the question that needs to be answered.

    http://celestewriter.com/2014/08/16/who-cares-about-black-on-black-crime/

    http://celestewriter.com/2014/09/02/africans-in-america-or-african-americans/

  4. Basil-Malik on September 2nd, 2014 1:40 pm

    Oh stop it with the “race baiter” thing. It is so disingenuous. By white standards ,anyone that speaks on injustice, inequality, discrimination and abuse is a race baiter. How unamerican is that. Thankfully, no matter how mad or comfortable the conversation makes you and your ilk, We will continue to talk about it and demand America lives up to its promise as is our GOD given right to do. LIve with it.. no infact, try to make it better for all. But that would require you actually do something substantive.

  5. Josh Odam on September 2nd, 2014 5:28 pm

    Directed toward “White with a capital W”, Basil-Malik, Celeste, and Kevin Bush:

    I hear your concerns and would appreciate the chance to discuss it further. However, I find arguing/commenting over the internet to be a waste of valuable time and energy.

    If you would like to begin an in-person dialogue, please let me know of a time which works for you all.

    -Josh

  6. Kevin Bush on September 2nd, 2014 6:23 pm

    Answer’s no Josh ..we’re doin this in public.. you called it murder. Why? ..explain yourself

  7. Kris on September 3rd, 2014 1:50 pm

    Don’t want online discussion? Don’t write something that will get posted online. Did Officer Wilson’s life matter when Michael Brown allegedly caused him severe facial injuries and tried to grab his gun? #WhiteLivesMatter Did Steve Pagones career and life as a free man matter when Tawana Brawley accused him and five other White men of rape? #WhiteLivesMatter Did George Zimmerman’s life matter when Trayvon Martin allegedly got on top of him and punched him in the face repeatedly while his head was on concrete? #White-HispanicLivesMatter

  8. Kevin on September 4th, 2014 12:35 am

    A few things, first off the stat “most homicides are intraracial in that 84% of white victims were killed by whites.” That doesn’t mean 84% of homicide victims are white that means that 84% of white victims are killed by other whites. Here’s another stat for you, blacks make up less then 13% of the population yet account for 49% of the perpetrators of homicide, 50% of the victims of homicide are also black. The oft repeated phrase “militarization of the police” is ridiculous, the police are based on a military style chain of command with sergeants, lieutenants, and captains. They commonly employ military tactics and equipment including procedure on clearing buildings. Our police force is inherently militaristic in that policing is a common duty in the military and has been for decades. On the topic of police acting as an occupying force, there’s some legitimacy in that, if only because in certain communities they are treated as an occupying force and have had nearly no community co-operation to aid in their policing. Police have both the ability and responsibility to protect the communities they serve, but without the help of the people who live there, who witness crime, who know the victims and perpetrators policing effectiveness is substantially less. The problem with the race conversation in this country is there is too much political gain in pointing the finger and assigning blame when some one talks about race.

  9. Dylan on October 16th, 2014 5:16 pm

    “White with a capital W”: The style of this article makes it an easy read for the common man/women. Newspaper articles are supposed to reach all audiences and especially today, where we are all so used to expressing ourselves in 146 characters or less, this style is extremely effective. I highly recommend a business communication class if you haven’t check one out already. In addition, I ask you: what are the demographics of the audience of those forensic shows? What is the percentage of minorities in executive positions in media? Yeah, that explains why the cast is predominantly white (another, separate issue). So, in reality, you can say that about any show. Now I ask you to do me a favor. Look at the way the Black body has been portrayed in our history and society today. It is common to see the Black body in a way that reaffirms stereotypes, as that is the way our media wants it. I ask you how long did Michael Brown’s body lay in the street after being murdered? Why for every Nikki Minaj, there is only one Viola Davis? But for every Miley Cyrus there are millions of positive influences for white women? Why was the Ray Rice and Ms. Rice video played over and over and over and over on the news? What I am saying simple: our society enjoys, either consciously or subconsciously, to see Black people in a lesser way. And the majority needs it to feel good about their invisible privilege. That is why the issue is magnified. Lastly for you, quoting The Boondocks appeals to ethos, once again. If you have not seen The Boondocks, you need to!

    Kevin, have you never heard of the prison industrial complex? Think.

    Josh, great article.

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