The intellectual laziness and fallacy in “black-on-black crime”

Image by Andrea Piacquadio

Where to begin?

White fragility, for most people, is a scenario like that of Amy Cooper and the Birder in Central Park, or the countless instances of “Karen” moments that have gone viral just this year alone. For me, I can’t ignore the gaping, underlying fragility in many of the counterpoints and counterarguments right-wing America presents to many civil rights topics. One paradigm I’ve been able to spot is that white fragility is rooted mostly in the fear of discomfort. Discomfort particularly in talking about race or anything pertinent thereof. For me, white fragility lies in the alternative mask that right wingers embody: a mask of absolute stupidity and obliviousness. These are people who would rather appear hopelessly stupid than to have to talk about race, and I could write an entirely different article on this factor alone (I actually think I will). Irony has never been anyone’s friend in particular, but it seems to have a certain vendetta against right-wing America; there is nothing more cringingly ironic than watching people pretending to not be racist literally demonstrate their racism every single time they open their mouths. These instances are sometimes explicit and sometimes implicit, but always baffling.

For instance, when a right winger hears the phrase, “Black Lives Matter!”, their almost instinctive rebuttal is “what about Chicago?” or “What about…” wait for it “…black-on-black crime?” The lack of self-awareness here, coupled with the nauseating confidence of “I’m white and I say so” would leave you questioning your own intellect for a moment. When I hear this, I begin to calculate, and it’s one of those moments when there’s so much I can say to someone, that I end up not wanting to say anything at all. For one, this sudden inquisition of “black-on-black crime” by someone who would swear they’re not racist should tell you that this person believes — either consciously or unconsciously — that somehow, black lives only exist in Chicago, or in “the hood”. This person is completely obvious, or at least willing to pretend to be — regardless of how stupid it makes him/her look, to the fact that there are many black cities and towns thriving economically and full of functional suburbs and business sectors, all over America. I often wonder what cliché 1980s gangster movie right wing America gets its news from, where black people are just thugs, gangsters, drug dealers, pimps, and hoes.

As an immigrant, born and raised in Nigeria, the fallacy and stupidity of “black-on-black crime” isn’t difficult to see.

I remember having this same debate with a colleague in 2015. He brought up “black-on-black crime”. This conversation, mind you, started out as a conversation about Nigeria, in which he initially showed curiosity about my country and culture. I went on to educate him, to which I was met with the ever-tiring gesture every African immigrant in America has to go through. The one in which a white person tries to make you feel welcomed by comparing you to, and pitting you against, Black Americans. I used to experience this a lot, and I was always uncomfortable with it. We were talking about Nigeria, and somehow Black Americans came up, and of course, so did black-on-black crime. But we began debating this, and I needed a way to end the conversation because I was starting to get angry. So, I asked him what the so-called “black-on-black crime” would be called in the Nigerian context. The dumbfounded look on his face was priceless.

Truth is, yes, there is a lot of crime in Nigeria. Did I say Nigeria? Sorry, I meant to say the world. A gaping spot where white privilege has planted its flag is in the power to control the narratives of others, and its easy to tell this is rooted centrally in power, when one examines the lack of effort that gets put into doing this. There are usually lots of inconsistencies to be found; like taking universalized paradigms and pinning them on just one group or region when its convenient, and then later doing the inverse.

I remember having to write an article a few years ago, about the poor socioeconomic state Southern Italy had fallen into, and how it has given way to the insurgence of mafia control and crimes; that was an academic article and I don’t have it online, but here’s an article from the Guardian talking about the same thing. Recently, clown-sident Trump made a statement promising to erase the fair-housing mandate, suggesting that higher-income neighborhoods will no longer be subjected to the supposed inherent increase in crime and depreciation that comes with “lower-income people”. The key factor here is that the clown, unintendedly — for sure, acknowledged the correlation between poverty and crime. This is a major contradiction to the many tweets and comments he’s made about said “black-on-black crime” — and that’s not mentioning the nonsense infographic he retweeted in 2015 with stats from the nonexistent “Crime Statistics Bureau”. This man, a president — well, candidate at that time, retweeted made up stats from a made-up governmental agency. Yes, read that again, and understand that the inclinations of fragile far-right Americans towards dismissing black activism and outcries are so strong, that Donald Trump was willing to believe something completely made up because of how much validation it brought to his racist pre-disposition.

The constant, endless, lamentations far-right America makes about “black-on-black crime” is rooted neither in honesty nor genuine concern. It’s lazy; for a very simple reason: what they refer to as “black-on-black crime” is just “poverty on poverty” crime. AND THEY KNOW THIS! I often cringe or get frustrated when I see black Americans trying to use intellect and argument or logic to debunk “all lives matter” or to counterargue against other far right talking points. To educate these people is to actually believe they don’t already know. They know. They just don’t really care and are lazy and fragile. It’s important that we don’t allow ourselves to get lured into what I would call “intellectual goose chases”, in which we task ourselves with teaching people things they already understand. It somehow vindicates such people by accepting that ignorance is an excuse for becoming toxic and dangerous to others.

To conclude, again — and I cannot stress this enough, “black-on-black crime” is as lazy a deflection as “all lives matter”, and the factor that these two rebuttals mostly emerge from the same sources speaks volumes. Poverty is a much stronger and universal predictor of crime rate, and the paradigms here can be found undoubtedly all across the world. Again, these deflections and controls of narratives are rooted in power, and this is made clear by the lack of effort one sees when examining these dispositions. “Black-on-black crime” is an attempt to escape having to face accountability for the oppression that has been inflicted on black Americans in this country, by instead trying to link the inherent and again, UNIVERSAL, vulnerability to situations and circumstances that create crime (which is clearly about poverty), to the color of their skin. It’s much more convenient to blame the skin color of the vulnerable than to have to address the much more complex reasons and processes through which they became vulnerable. America is a culture that looms in the just-world hypothesis, meaning empathy is something many naturally struggle with. Black-on-black crime is just poverty on poverty crime. The real question is what does it say about America when “black” is still associated with poverty?