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Monday, November 3, 2014

Logical Fallacies: Black-on-Black Crime

Here, we launch an ongoing series in which we will periodically explore the logical fallacies commonly used in conversations about race. These posts will give basic counterarguments and point to articles and resources in which the topics are debunked a greater length (so do be sure to check out the links below).

We begin with the cry against ‘black-on-black crime’ that is commonly raised in the face of protests against interracial violence. This argument is built upon the ugly stereotype of black pathological violence, and perpetuates the ongoing criminalization of black citizens. It propagates stop and frisk policiesschool to prison pipelinemass incarceration, and the knee jerk reactions of officers and vigilantes to shoot first and cry self-defense later.

The perception of rampant black violence has very real consequences, but it is poorly founded on reality. There is a pervasive fear of gun violence at the hands of young black men, even though only 4% have ever even held a gun. Indeed, only ~1% of Black people in the United State commit any violent crime in a given year.  But the statistics are rarely stated this way. Thus, as Natalie Hopkinson at The Root notes, "the term 'black-on-black violence' is a slander against the majority of law-abiding black Americans, rich and poor, who get painted by this broad and crude brush."

Meantime, the rarely-bemoaned white-on-white crime pandemic is just as prevalent as black-on-black crime, if not more so. Eighty-six percent of homicides against white people are committed by other white people. Edward Wyckoff Williams notes that “as the largest racial group, whites commit the majority of crimes in America. In particular, whites are responsible for the vast majority of violent crimes.” When whiteness is treated as the default culture, white-on-white crime is not seen as a cultural symptom, but rather deemed to be ‘normal,' understandable, or rational crime (see also: Identity in a White-Default World).

The reality is that most crime is perpetrated within race. We live in largely segregated environments, and so just as with most activities we participate in, crime occurs in a segregated fashion. Jamelle Bouie writes that it's a matter of 'opportunism and proximity': “if African-Americans are more likely to be robbed, or injured, or killed by other African-Americans, it’s because they tend to live in the same neighborhoods as each other.” Nevertheless, homicides of black victims by black perpetrators have decreased by 67% in 20 years, a much faster decline than white-on-white homicide.

Franchesca Ramsey also notes in her excellent Decoded video that questioning why we worry about police shootings of Black people when there is  'black-on-black crime' is like saying we shouldn't grieve ISIS's killing of Americans since Americans also kill other Americans.

Plus, civilians killing other civilians, while terrible, isn't the same as professionally-trained, government employees killing our citizens. It is good and right that officers receive better bias training and be held to higher standards than ordinary citizens are.

via @sandravanopstal
Be skeptical whenever the 'black-on-black crime' argument is raised. It is most often used as a derailment, rather than out of any sincere concern for the black community. Questioning why "no one ever talks about [insert issue here]", is usually simply an indicator of the speaker's own limited exposure to a diverse array of voices. By "no one's talking about it" they actually mean "none of the people I pay attention to and hang out with ever mention it."

Bringing up violence against black people only as a debate tactic is shallow and insincere. There are many who care deeply about violence in black communities and who consistently and passionately speak out against it,  not just when convenient as a counterpoint to victims' cries of racism (as though we can't care about both!). Jamelle Bouie again states “no one has said that crime between African Americans isn’t a problem. The point is that blackness has nothing to do with it. “Black-on-black crime” is a frame that presupposes black criminality—that there’s something inherent to blackness which makes intra-group crime more prevalent and more deadly.”

More details from Colorlines
In Romans, Paul admonishes us to "watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles...By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people." and as we go about our daily lives, we must be wary of how this false argument is perpetuated. Colorlines recently shared a Media Matters report that "found black suspects in crime stories far outweigh their actual representation in arrests—which is saying something, since we also know arrests themselves are racially skewed. In local news-land, 80% of suspects in New York-area thefts are black, Media Matters found. In real life, blacks represent 55% of NYPD’s arrests for theft. For assaults, TV-land sees 72% of suspects as black. Real life: 49%."

The bible also tells us "the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear." This warning against false spiritual teaching is also just as important in guarding against logical fallacies perpetuated for the sake of fear-mongering and political gain. 


  1. There is a double standard when it's the dominant culture being rowdy it just youthful hijinks. But with the African American community they are labeled as animals, thugs, and other negative pejoratives. Like that craziness at that Pumpkin Festival is a perfect example. Racist always like to focus on the pathologies of the African American community.

  2. Isn't the point about black on black crime that it isn't about race? It shows that crime against black people is not motivated by race (as in white people hating black people and therefore committing crimes against them). It is black people committing crimes against black people. Crime is more often connected to neighborhoods, not race. If the grand juries in the Brown and Garner case had come back differently, that situation doesn't change.

    In other words, people were all upset that a white officer killed a black man (Michael Brown), but they weren't equally outraged about the black on black killings that are far more prevalent and more destructive to the black community.

    The question is why don't black communities riot over black on black homicide? That's not rhetorical. It's an actual question I don't have an answer to but I would be curious to know what others think.

  3. Obviously you either didn't read or understand this article... genius!!!

  4. I am not sure that's obvious at all. Perhaps you can explain how it is what I didn't understand. I am certainly open to that.

    My response certainly explores something that the article is not clear on.

    And that is why I posted the question: Why don't black communities riot over black on black homicide?

    I wonder if you or the author might have an answer to that.

  5. FIt's off, your questioned is malformed itself. It's a prejudiced and ignorant one to be honest. You basically implied that black people don't care about injustice when it's amongst ourselves, that is an uninformed opinion, which you based your conclusion.
    have you not considereal that the MEDIA doesn't bring cameras out to cover the daily campaigns, protests,etc. In our communities, why? Because it doesn't fit the false narrative you have bought into. In other words, just because YOU can't see Mars from where you are, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Also, have you not noticed how many WHITES marched with us in ferguson for example, and admit it was a RACIST incident? It's bad enough to be claiming it's all in our minds and we are hypocrites, but it begs the question: U Mean to tell me white people are imaginin racism against black people too?
    Or could it be you that is deluded?
    Remember that riot when Sandusky was fired n punished for child molestation?
    Or when certain sports teams win or lose?
    Those are white folks rioting.
    where is the rioting when white Kids shoot up their schools?
    Dosent white on white crime occur daily as well? Do you know how insane it is to question the morals of a group, when your group has the exact same one?

    I guess if you ARE right and I'm wrong, then there is another question, since white people DO kill each other everyday, why is it not hypocrisy to seek justice??????


  6. P.S. : in lamen terms, your question is the equivalent to asking " Why isn't water wet"...
    (I'll let u figure that out)

  7. For anybody who has a problem understanding this issue, please enjoy..Shout out to LT for inspiring me to correct some misrepresentations out there Jon Stewart Goes After Fox in Powerful Ferguson M…:

  8. I can only assume you didn't read what I said. My question isn't malformed. It is a straightforward question: Why don't black communities riot over black on black homicide?

    First, how is that prejudiced?

    Second, can you answer it? Can you point me to march or a demonstration about black on black homicide similar to the Ferguson riots? If not, why not?

    Everything else is distraction from that question.

    I live in Detroit. I am well familiar with black on black crime.It is a daily occurrence. Yet I recall no riots from black on black crime. It has happened on my street, and in the blocks surrounding me. And there were no riots. That has nothing to do with a narrative. I am genuinely curious as to why.

    I live in my community intentionally because I want to try to make a difference. I want to try to understand what is going on. I want to pursue racial harmony and reconciliation. And here's your chance to help me. Please don't do it by attacking me.

    The question remains, why is the black community passionate when it is a white police officer killing a young black man, but they don't show the same passion when it is a young black man killing a young black man?


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By Their Strange Fruit by Katelin H is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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