Sunday, January 11, 2015


I've been wanting to say something about "black-on-black" violence for a while now, but I've kept quiet because it's generally not my place. But week after week my people, white people, somehow get themselves on television and ply the same lies and misconceptions absent any pointed rebuttal from their own. So I'm breaking my silence in the hope that some prominent white person, somewhere, will read this, crumple it up, and figuratively stick it in Rudy Giuliani's craw the next time he broaches the topic. 

For some reason us white folks go years without caring about "black-on-black" violence. Then, suddenly, after a white cop kills a black kid with his hands up, or another strangles an unarmed man to death, those of us who haven’t cared about the topic for 27,000 consecutive days are suddenly huffing and puffing on television while black people are at the funerals. Why aren’t black people marching? Why don’t black people care more? Why aren’t they protesting what's happening in Chicago?

As Ta-Nehisi Coates pointed out after Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, MO, black people do care. They are marching. They are doing everything they can. The reason why "black-on-black" violence continues is because white people want it to.

Sounds crazy, right? I once thought so, too. 

In 1996 Boston switched "black-on-black" violence "off." It was called the Boston Miracle. In the nineties in Boston a number of young children and a prosecutor were killed in a gruesome spate of violence. City officials said enough. They forged a partnership between police, community leaders and clergy and rounded up 1,000 of the city’s 100,000 15- to 24-year-olds. Specifically, the one percent on the corners. 

Go through this door, which is jobs and services, and you will have a good life. Go through this one, which is back the way you came, and we will round you up and throw you in jail. Forever. Most chose the first door, a few chose the second, and before anyone could say, wait, you’re about to debunk the most legitimate pretext for racism we have!, zero black teens were killed over a twenty-nine month period in Boston. Yes, you read that correctly. Zero.

Now, if you’re like me, and you believe that your government, the police, and the American people, honestly want "black-on-black" violence to stop, then you would assume, as I did, that nobody would ever, in a thousand years, allow the "black-on-black" violence switch to be flipped back "on" again. 

Don't worry, I fell for it, too. This is from the brains across the river at Harvard, who wrote the Miracle's autopsy report:

"The highly successful "Operation Ceasefire" program ended when then-Lieutenant Detective Gary French, who was the operational steward of the approach...left the YVSF...The new commander did not continue the weekly Ceasefire meetings, and YVSF operations devolved into chiefly law enforcement approaches."

You see, as the "new commander," kindly left unnamed, quickly became aware, homicide-free cities don’t require you to hire new recruits. They require you to retire police early (Boston was slated to lose 200 officers following the Miracle) and not hire new ones, because the police have nothing to do when the kids they were chasing over fences go to work. Homicide-free cities don’t require tech upgrades to keep pace with the N.Y.P.D. and other elite forces, who in the 2000s were gearing up with assault rifles, armored carriers, and a ton of other awesome SWAT gear that "black-on-black" violence in the "on" position makes white people scared enough to underwrite with blank checks. 

Just as fast as they turned "black-on-black" violence "off," city leaders realized their mistake and quickly switched it back "on." No more jobs. No more social services. No more nothing except warrants and ass kickings. As the chart below makes clear, complaints for disrespect and use of force suddenly exploded, while youth homicides increased to 15 in 2000, 26 in 2001, and 39 in 2006. Total homicides increased from 31 in 1999 to 69 in 2001. In order to combat this resurgence, the city hired more recruits, purchased citywide gunshot detection, hired a chopper with night vision, tanks, SWAT gear, and other crime-fighting essentials.

Which brings me to my point: "black-on-black" violence is not a real, race-specific thing that exists independently of the policy levers and power actors that turn it "on" and "off" at will. As Philippe Bourgois wrote in the 80s:

The streets of East Harlem have always produced violent, substance-abusing felons, no matter which ethnic immigrant group happened to be living there.

Intra-racial violence (excluding, obviously, crimes of passion) typically arises out of the need to protect illicit income from local competitors. And because ethnic and racial groups historically stick together in hostile environments -- think "Irish need not apply" signs -- Whitey Bulger’s local competitors in Southie were Irish, John Gotti's were Italian, and so on. 

The elected officials in charge of the economic levers in this country control "black-on-black" violence today the same way they controlled "Irish-on-Irish" and "Italian-on-Italian" violence back in the day. As soon as they incorporated those groups into the economy and allowed them to access the jobs and services available to everyone else, intra-racial crime disappeared. Thus it is today you don't hear people talking about "Irish-on-Irish" or "Italian-on-Italian" violence. They aren't real things. 

It's no different for other ethnic and racial groups. Time and again, when black Americans were offered the same jobs and services as everyone else, "black-on-black" homicides vanished. High Point, NC. Richmond, CA. Most recently in Chicago

So next time you hear hear Rudy Giuliani, Ray Kelly, Bill O'Reilly, or any other misinformed white person claiming that the only way to stop "black-on-black" violence is to heavily police, stop and frisk, and shoot-to-kill black men, please call them out on their bullshit. The data defies them. Reason defies them. Cost savings defy them. Saving lives defies them. History defies them. 

Don't make Russell Simmons remind him, white people. You tell him. It's your lie. Our lie. We started it. And now we have to clean up our mess. Because the more this lie proliferates, and spreads unchecked among our people, the more the gullible, scared, and precious among us are tricked into thinking that the Darren Wilsons and Daniel Pantaleos of the world are keeping America safe from a threat that we have been turning "on" and "off" again, at our leisure, for decades.

1 comment:

@WordsDefineLife said...

Blk-on-Blk Crime Myth 2Justify #GenocidesContinue #GetVoterID