The Black Lives Matter movement has recently become a household expression; an issue in itself that many debate and devalue mainly because they need to be debriefed. We hear the hostility in retorts from people refusing to face the facts as they respond with, “All lives matter.” Or better yet, they will try to redirect the message by asking, “What about black on black crime?”
I, for one, thought that the movement was specific to one particular injustice that has robbed lives from our community for far too long. It is easy to see how the name of the movement has lent itself to the image of an angry all-encompassing crusade bent on saving every single black life and fighting against every single black death. I believe this misconception is due to its name, which has become an umbrella term for many well-meaning but misguided actions all in the name of Black Lives Matter.
To be clear: Yes, black lives matter even if the courts have set precedents as judging otherwise when the killer is an officer of the law.
To be even clearer: Yes, all lives matter, unless it is a black life taken by an officer or a vigilante.
But, “What about black on black crime?”
As I see it, America to this day remains extremely segregated. Americans tend to commit crimes within the region they live, so understandably criminality conforms to that fact. Hence, the victims of crimes often share the same race as those who perpetrate them. The 2013 FBI Crime Report found that black offenders killed 90% of blacks. Conversely, white offenders killed 84% of whites. Far from being extraordinary, the fact that black criminals are most likely to commit crimes against black people makes them just like everybody else. The notion that blacks are the only race killing each other needs to be debunked.
Blacks killing blacks is the only crime characterized in this manner. I think a more honest term would be, simply, “crime.” Only one thing has been accomplished by focusing on the crime of blacks as an independent phenomenon — the removal of individual consideration and the imposition of collective suspicion based on the hue of one’s skin. A tragic death of a black man never results in an immediate feeling of sorrow from the public, until the “What did he do, FIRST” feeling is relieved. Black victims are constantly vilified, their lives and the lives of their parents combed through for a ‘justifiable’ infraction that led to their demise. The media covers mass shootings by white people from an angle that somehow humanizes them, despite the terroristic actions. The go-to explanation will be mental illness; a victim of abuse failed by society and the inadequate mental health resources.
With that said, I believe crime between African-Americans is a problem. My point is that our blackness has nothing to do with it. Offenders commit crime. Framing crime as “black-on-black” is doing the nation a huge disservice. There is nothing inherent to blackness making intra-group crime more prevalent. This framing presupposes black criminality and ignores the history that has brought us to this point, which is why I particularly enjoyed Cathryn Paul’s piece on Baltimore’s policy. As she stated, there was a century of public policy coupled with anti-black violence that forced hyper-segregation, peonage thus manufacturing many of the ghettos that exist today. However, society likes to ignore these facts and marvel at the economic perilousness and intensified violence among the victims and their descendants. I wholeheartedly believe this is why the media continues to talk about crime in my community as a factor of blackness. We cannot ignore the history and public policy that led to these results. Yet somehow continue with the mindset of treating all blacks as criminal suspects because of the actions of a small minority.
For now, we will ignore these facts.
As Black people, we have to do more for ourselves and hold each other accountable. Let’s start by addressing the psychology in our community that we can change. We need to get rid of the drug business and stop glamorizing the lives of those individuals. The infiltration of drugs has robbed our community of profound productivity. I would like to see more community days, where residents tear down the nooks being utilized for all related activities. We need to begin the process of totally reclaiming our neighborhoods, and our youth.
The majority of our youth desperately need mentors, and extracurricular activities to occupy their time. Single parents have their hands full trying to earn and provide; this is the ideal time for robotics clubs, music societies, and other career stimulating events; starting at the elementary school level. Given my background, I find it easy to assemble engineers to host robotics camps, STEM field days and other technical workshops. If we all examined our network, and mobilized teams we can help dissolve the gap created by decreasing school budgets. As black professionals, we need to take a larger leading role.
As a devout Christian, I would be remiss to not mention the role the church could play, if allowed. The church is not just a community organization there to collect and disseminate donations as needed. Raising a child in church gives them an impeccable toolbox to handle the issues life will throw them. Furthermore, provides them access to great mentorship and insightful direction, which is overdue in our society. It will take a village to raise a child, but first, that village needs to raise itself. We will continue to fight the systemic injustices, but we must also fight the systemic flaws that have crept into our culture.
• Maurice Nick is a writer, public speaker, and youth leader living in Upper Marlboro, Md.