We must unmask the true source of so-called ‘Black-on-Black violence’
A 17-year-old young Black man was killed on Thursday, July 23, three blocks from the George Floyd Memorial. No one knows the circumstances, but many inherently know the reason, and it goes deeper than the reported dispute that ended with a gun and a death.
The police report will say where and how he was shot and suggest a possible motive, but it will not capture the true genesis that, according to the experts, most likely began in an environment deprived of the social and economic resources needed to feel good about oneself and be successful in the competitive society we know as the U.S. Some suggest that the violence stems from the same motive that caused the first Black man to shoot his brother after being kidnapped from Africa: racial oppression.
“Any violence within the Black community is always connected to levels of oppression, poverty, or the involvement of State agencies in infiltrating and imposing weapons, conflict, etc. onto an already existing unequal society,” explains Morgan State University Professor Jared Ball.
Though this recent murder occurred near the scene of Floyd’s murder, there was no apparent change in the demeanor of the Minneapolis police who responded to the scene, no sense of shame. Instead there was thinly disguised hostility toward the crowd that had gathered, coupled with an obvious us-versus-them attitude.
The murder was reported far and wide, the 37th such killing this year. It was recorded as just another death among many in the Black community with no real attempt to scientifically analyze or politically evaluate the cause of such tragedy.
Historically, Minneapolis and other major cities have proposed solving the problem of violence in the Black community by employing more police. Yet so-called Black-on-Black violence persists.
Adding more police in the Black community has proven paradoxical since, according to a New York Times report, over the last five years “police in Minneapolis used force against Black people at a rate at least seven times that of White people.”
It escapes few that Floyd was killed by Derek Chauvin while he was fulfilling the supposed duties of law enforcement. In 2019, according to a Star Tribune report, the Minneapolis police reported solving only 56% of the murders committed in the city. Nationally, police solve about 62% of murder cases.
Internecine Black crime is used by some to mock Black efforts at racial progress and racial justice. They imply that because a small minority of Black people participate in committing violence against other Black people, then they have no right to make demands on a system that African Americans categorically say is discriminatory and oppressive.
Critics of Blacks who protest police violence appear hypocritical when they say that Black people should oppose so-called Black-on-Black violence, yet object to them expressing outrage or even protesting violence committed against them by those from outside their community, namely the police.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune engaged in this practice recently in an editorial written by Katherine Kirsten, apparently a Strib favorite since her columns appear somewhat regularly in the newspaper. Kirsten claimed that to be an adherent of racial justice and police reform (Woke as she called it) one must at the same time ignore the issue of violence in the Black community.
However, the idea that Black people are “soft on crime” while being tough on police violence is viewed by most in the Black community as comparing apples to oranges, as unfair and unfounded. The accusation, though false, seems to play well in conservative and right-wing segments of society unwilling to face the truth or in denial about the source of the violence. In Minneapolis alone there are numerous groups dedicated to addressing the issue of violence that occurs in the Black community.
Street crime is perpetrated mainly by strangers who may be in close proximity, but strangers nevertheless, who have no compact with anybody. The government, on the other hand, represented by the police department, has a compact with all of its citizens, mainly to protect and serve the citizenry.
Therefore the government is supposed to protect the interests of its citizens who pay allegiance to it and even taxes, so when the government or an agency of the government kills or brutalizes someone, they have committed a betrayal. Unlike the street thug, the government has a responsibility to protect and not injure.
Ironically few critics of the Black community’s supposed lack of response, and even fewer articles that seek to address the issue, ask why the police are not successful in eliminating violent crime in the Black community. None point the finger at the police themselves for failing to stem the tide.
Conservative Black academic Orlando Patterson places the blame for Black violence on the victim. “There is one long-term, fundamental change that can come only from within the Black community: a reduction in the number of kids born to single, usually poor, women.”
Two of the identified causes of violent crime, drugs and access to illegal firearms, have not been successfully corralled by police. Nor does there appear to be any concerted effort to stop the flow of illegal drugs and illegal guns at their sources.
Recently, the Minneapolis City Council voted to reduce funding to the Minneapolis Police Department. The idea of defunding the police has become popular among some activists. The City has promised to put the funds into efforts to stem violence in the city. Some activists suggest the City go further and, after defunding, allow the Black community to decide how those funds should be invested.
The Center for Popular Democracy suggests rerouting funds from policing to educational, community, restorative justice, and employment programs that have been shown to improve community safety, including investments in community-based drug and mental health treatment.
But simply reducing and redirecting some police funding will not address the structural problems of the correctional system as it relates to the Black community. According to Professor Amos Wilson in his book “Black-on-Black Violence,” “The ‘criminal justice’ system is best understood as a multi-billion-dollar industry wherein the African American is utilized as its basic raw material, the processing and the ‘refining’ of which provides income for White families, vendors, construction firms, professionals, law and security enforcement agencies.”
“So-called Black-on-Black crime is born of a multi-decade attempt to distract from this truth, that people hurt and kill who they live near or with,” says Ball. “Most violence is personal. Whites have been killing each other for millennia and long before they even knew the rest of the world existed.
“Even today Whites have mostly only other Whites to worry about regarding their safety. It’s all meant to put the focus on mythologies of White superiority and Black inhumanity as reasons for any existing world problem.”
Mel Reeves was the community editor at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder until he passed away on January 6, 2022. He had a long and storied history working at the MSR.
Find more about Reeve’s life and legacy here: spokesman-recorder.com/category/remembering-mel-reeves.