Black-on-black crime

Moderated by Rick Badie
A cry erupted from many, notably in the black community, following the not-guilty verdict of George Zimmerman, who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old black boy. Some activists, pundits, moms and dads suggested that blacks in general — and our community as a whole — should address a potentially highly charged topic: black-on-black crime. Today, we present two writers with personal viewpoints on a topic that we want to become an ongoing discussion in Atlanta Forward.

The start of a tough conversation

By Rick Badie

Earvin “Magic” Johnson shocked the world on Nov. 7, 1991 with the announcement that he’d contracted the HIV virus and would retire from the NBA. In 1991, AIDS was the second-leading cause of death among men 25-to-44 years old.

Ignorance, homophobia and flat-out fear crippled a true understanding of AIDS, a mysterious malady at the time. Magic, who spoke openly and honestly about his health and how he’d acquired the virus via unprotected sex, changed the conversation about an epidemic generally thought to be a death sentence, if it was thought about at all.

With Magic, it became our disease. Yours. Mine. All were susceptible. Even the NBA superstar with a so-so hook shot and megawatt smile.

In some respects, a recent tragedy could carry similar weight — the killing of Trayvon Martin and the subsequent acquittal of the shooter, George Zimmerman, a white Hispanic. If you’re black like me — father of a son and a daughter, the ordeal inflicts bitterness. For many responsible parents, “I am Trayvon Martin” has become the mantra.

If we allow it, this horrific encounter in a gated complex could fulfill a broader purpose, just as Magic affected the face of HIV and AIDS. If we get real – true to ourselves, each other and the greater good – the troubling aspects of Trayvon’s killing – even though his shooter wasn’t black – provides impetus for a conversation long overdue, albeit racially perilous: Black-on-black crime.

In Atlanta, it’s a crucial conversation to have. Young black men dominate headlines — too often for the wrong reasons. Too many shoot and kill with abandon. We on the Opinion staff of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution plan to do more on this issue in the coming weeks.

Today’s Atlanta Forward page marks the beginning of what we hope evolves into an ongoing, common-sense discussion about crime and race — topics many people generally dance around unless they can post an anonymous, derogatory online comment. We hope you, readers of goodwill, will join us on and on the Atlanta Forward blog. But be forewarned: We intend to move beyond silliness. Calling the Rev. Al Sharpton a “race pimp.” Trashing “the white man.” Foolishness begone on this sensitive, important topic. Today’s guest writers are just two of the varied opinions we hope to bring you going forward. Bring them on.

The subject of black-on-black crime can cut a broad swath. Fuel infinite conversations. One can’t discuss violence of any stripe and ignore personal responsibility. It’s hard to wax poetically about such responsibility and not critique controversial laws like “stop-n-frisk” and “Stand Your Ground” where they concern blacks. Is black-on-black crime any more abhorrent than white-on-white crime? And why does society gravitate toward “black pathology” as explanation?

Tough issues.

So let’s imagine. I do. I think Magic would admit that much work remains in regards to AIDS awareness and education. His former agent, Lon Rosen, once said the Lakers’ legend had wanted to keep the disease atop everybody’s mind.

Your newspaper strives to do likewise. We want to enlighten. And help host a conversation that has potential to save lives of every color.

Join us.

Subculture disregards life

By Jerome Hudson

The rancor surrounding the George Zimmerman acquittal failed to address the problem of black-on-black crime.

The death of a minor is always tragic. The media devoted wall-to-wall coverage of Trayvon Martin’s death, even as the nation’s black-on-black killing fields — our inner cities — filled more body bags with black victims slain by black killers.

According to FBI data, 4,906 blacks killed other blacks in 2010 and 2011. To put that number in context, that is more than the total number of U.S. military deaths in Iraq over the last decade. To put it another way, more black Americans killed other blacks in two years than were lynched from 1882 to 1968, according to the Tuskegee Institute.

I am no sideline commentator. This black male was robbed at gunpoint by a black thug — a former classmate — in December 2001.

Sadly, my story is not unique. But unlike countless other black youths, my life was spared.

I am also different in that my father, an Army drill instructor, and my mother, who was a manager, supported and nurtured my moral and educational upbringing.

Today, with nearly 7 in 10 black fathers abandoning their young, is it any wonder that poverty, prison and gang lifestyles stalk so many black youths? The solution to black income inequality is painfully obvious: Bring home two full-time paychecks from a mom and a dad instead of one.

Two committed parents also means there are another pair of eyes and hands to read to that child at night, to inculcate a sense of self-worth. Two parents mean twice the chance that a black child won’t fall victim to the panoply of social pathologies that plague so many American inner cities.

It is time America broadens the parameters of our discussion about black-on-black crime. It’s past time for black America to be brutally honest with itself.

No, black people are not unique to intra-racial murder. But a subculture of wanton disregard for human life has cropped up in some communities. Not every black child who dons a hoody is a hoodlum. That does not make Trayvon Martin the new Emmett Till.

Blacks often avoid turning the spotlight on ourselves. Meanwhile, caskets are being filled with the bodies of America’s future. The culture of death thrives in America’s inner cities.

So let’s keep it real: Many of black America’s wounds are self-inflicted. Until we bolster the core pillars of personal responsibility and self-reliance that create human flourishment, all the punditry, political grandstanding and civil rights posturing will remain impotent and useless in fixing social problems that vex black Americans.

It’s past time for healing in the communities that hurt the most. This culture of murder must be confronted. Leaders must lead. And until this happens, things aren’t going to get any better.

Savannah native Jerome Hudson is a member of Project 21, a black conservative leadership network.

The myth of black-on-black crime

Jamelle Bouie

In Chicago, 16-year-old Darryl Green was killed, relatives reported, because he refused to join a gang. Unlike most tragedies — which remain local news — this one caught the attention of conservative activist Ben Shapiro, who tweeted and publicized Green’s murder. But this wasn’t a call for help and assistance for Green’s family. Rather, it was his response to wide outrage over the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin.

Shapiro, echoing many other conservatives, is angry over the perceived politicization of the Zimmerman trial, and believes that activists have ”injected” race into the discussion, as if there’s nothing racial already within the criminal-justice system. He complains that media attention had everything to do with Zimmerman’s race. If he were black, the argument goes, no one would care.

And so, Shapiro found the sad story of Darryl Green, and promoted it as an example of the “black-on-black” crime that, he believes, goes ignored. Or, as he tweets, “49 percent of murder victims are black men. 93 percent of those are killed by other blacks. Media don’t care. Obama doesn’t care. #JusticeForDarryl.”

The idea that “black-on-black” crime is the real story in Martin’s killing isn’t a novel one. Zimmerman defense attorney Mark O’Mara has said that his client “never would have been charged with a crime” if he were black.

But there’s a huge problem with this attempt to shift the conversation: There’s no such thing as “black-on-black” crime. Yes, from 1976 to 2005, 94 percent of black victims were killed by black offenders, but that racial exclusivity was also true for white victims of violent crime — 86 percent were killed by white offenders. Indeed, for the large majority of crimes, you’ll find that victims and offenders share a racial identity, or have some prior relationship to each other.

What Shapiro and others miss about crime, in general, is that it’s driven by opportunism and proximity. If African-Americans are more likely to be robbed, or injured, or killed by other African-Americans, it’s because they tend to live in the same neighborhoods as each other. And of course the reverse holds – whites are more likely to live near whites.

Nor are African-Americans especially criminal. If they were, you would still see high rates of crime among blacks, even as the nation sees a historic decline in criminal offenses. Instead, crime rates among African-Americans, and black youth in particular, have taken a sharp drop. Overall, figures from a variety of institutions — including the FBI and the Bureau of Justice Statistics — show that among black youth, rates of robbery and serious property offenses are at their lowest rates in 40 years, as are rates of violent crime and victimization.

“Black-on-black crime” has been part of the American lexicon for decades, but as a specific phenomenon, it’s no more real than “white-on-white crime.” Unlike the latter, however, the idea of “black-on-black crime” taps into specific fears around black masculinity and black criminality — the same fears that, in Florida, led George Zimmerman to focus his attention on Trayvon Martin, and in New York, continue to justify Michael Bloomberg’s campaign of police harassment against young black men in New York City.

Jamelle Bouie originally wrote this article for The Daily Beast, which gave us permission to reprint it.

58 comments Add your comment

Coach Phil

August 22nd, 2013
3:05 pm

@ 4site people like Terry don’t need an audience. People who respond to ignorance keeps it going. A fool can’t act a fool by him or herself.

Coach Phil

August 22nd, 2013
3:01 pm

I agree with say what Black on black crime is overstated. we are not the only race killing each other. you have gangs of all races but society says the black gangs are the worse. It is sad that in 2013 we still have to deal with racism.


August 22nd, 2013
3:00 pm

@Gerald.Your comments and opinions are right on.


August 22nd, 2013
2:59 pm

Hey Terry. Most “Negroes” have more education and speak more eloquently than you could ever speak There are plenty of trash such as yourself who are no more capable of speaking proper English. Have you watched Honey Boo Boo? Also, there are more “Negroes” being hired than folks such as yourself. Trust? Funny you would bring that up. You good White folks manufacture wars and kill thousands of people and guess what? The whole world hates you and everything you represent. So when you get home tonight, take off your bib overalls and try to get your grime covered little hands on an English book so that you can learn to capitalize properly. You are a sick and useless human being who cannot engage in a constructive dialogue without bringing your ignorance to the table and spew it as fact. How was that. Is it eloquent enough for you? If you can’t understand it, say so in another post so I can dumb it down for you!

say what

August 22nd, 2013
2:52 pm

Gerald don’t you have a Klan rally/meeting to attend? :)


August 22nd, 2013
2:50 pm

Jerome is right on. In this discussion series in the AJC, I hope you will address such topics as blacks being too dependent on the government for their primary means of support instead of being self sufficient, young blacks dropping out of school and/or joining gangs, and the mainstream media’s stance to promote such cases as Trayvon Martin and not giving equal coverage to instances such as the recent Oklahoma shooting of the Australian student by 2.5 black teens who were “bored.”

A good friend asked me this question the other day. Name one black shooting victim’s name not named Trayvon Martin. I couldn’t come up with one…can you? Reason–the media doesn’t promote those killings like they did in Mr. Zimmerman’s trial.


August 22nd, 2013
2:50 pm

Jackson and Sharpton only pop out of their jack in the box whenever there is a white on black crime. They cannot point the finger at “whitey” unless they are white or hispanic and “identify themselves as a white hispanic”. Would love to see someone say they are a “white African.” As for hyphenations, pick one- are you an american or are you african. Point is, you have to be BORN in that particular country to obtain the nationality. Being that most of these so called Africans have were never born nor visited Africa, unless you consider downtown Atlanta or Clayton County a suburb of Africa, I wish they would go back to calling them selves Americans, or black americans as they were in the past. Just wondering if mugging, killing etc are survival traits of Africa? But unless they start becoming civilized and take responsibility for their actions, they wil never progress further than what they are now. They have no one to blame but themselves. Everyone is an individual, and unless you are a sheep in the herd of Jackson and Sharpton and the evil NAACP/Farrakhan, you have the ability to make something great of yourself.


August 22nd, 2013
2:48 pm

Need a lot more of it,a lot more.


August 22nd, 2013
2:47 pm

Unfortunately, I think Jamelle lives in a bad-stat cluster. With all due respect to each writer, black on black or white on white crime, etc. the statistics in such places as Chicago bear out the terrible disparities. In the black enclaves, much more crime (especially murders) occurs, and it cannot (nor should it) be sugar-coated. The break up of a nuclear family has plenty to do with it. The fact that the latest feel-good remedy is to somehow lend validation to any culture is just wrong. A violent, deadly culture is wrong..period; no black, white, brown or any other color withstanding. It is hard to blame just the schools when the circumstances many of these unfortunate kids come from render the schools helpless. When surviving just to get to and from school is a challenge, wow! Look at Atlanta, home of this paper. Look at the crime-stats, demographics, etc. Then, form an opinion.

say what

August 22nd, 2013
2:44 pm

This is simply hysteria over something that is insignificant.

there are about 30 million “blacks” in the U.S. and because 4,000.00 died we have a problem?

We are talking about 0.0066% of the “community”

As long as there are more than 4,000 births in the community over a two year period clearly this is a manufactured crisis.