#BlackLivesMatter: The Irony Behind “Black On Black” Crime

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

Have you ever had an out-of-body experience? A moment where you can actually see yourself as you go about your daily routine. It’s weird to say the least. Walking down Monroe Street in the sun-parched kingdom of Bed-Stuy, I was holding my iPhone to my ear. In my haste, I left my headphones on the counter and the blaring car horns were drowning out the Public Enemy song I just downloaded (legally, I might add.) I had to stop for a moment because the whole set-up seemed eerily familiar. That’s when it came to me: Radio Raheem.

SPOILER ALERT: I’m going to pause the story for readers who have not seen Spike Lee’s “Do The Right Thing” and give you a moment to close the browser, lest I ruin the movie for you. Consider yourselves warned.

Spike Lee’s 1988 film is set in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn during a blistering heatwave. Temperatures are high along with tensions, racial tensions to be specific. Enter Radio Raheem, a towering young Black man whose cultural pride is embodied by his LOVE-HATE brass knuckles and his boombox which amplifies Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” throughout the neighborhood. Raheem is choked to death by a white NYPD officer, which in turn, ignites a riot in the Black community. I know, that was the super-abridged SparkNotes summary. I highly recommend you watch it the film in its entirety.

Now back to our original story. At that moment, pictures of Eric Garner appeared on my news feed.

The out-of-body experience I was referring to earlier was seeing my facial expression as I drew those parallels in my mind. I saw it, it was not a look of shock, disgust, disdain, or fear…but realization.

The realization that a film older than myself adequately captures life for people of color in New York City and the United States in 2014.

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, Renisha McBride, or Jordan Davis were ever healed to begin with) which have resulted in uprisings in Ferguson, Missouri.

Of course, this has sparked conversation and action from the community at large ranging from vigils, internet hashtags (#iftheygunnedmedown, #handsupdontshoot), to mass migrations in an effort to stand in solidarity with those resisting in Ferguson.

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

It was repeated and re-discussed to the point where I personally had to rethink my views on the subject. After some serious introspection, I reached the conclusion that there is NO SUCH THING AS BLACK ON BLACK CRIME.

However, after a series of conversations with my girlfriend, I came to second conclusion which was Black on Black crime definitely exists, but it is examined through a warped and distorted societal lens. Let me explain 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, Latin@-on-Latin@ crime, South Asian-on-South Asian crime don’t seem to be as popular of terms. 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 that we have achieved 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 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.

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