Wait Til You See What Black on Black Crime Is Really About
It’s a silly question on its face right? It’s obviously when a black person commits a crime against another black person. But why do we talk about it as opposed to other races committing crimes versus their own race or even blacks committing crimes against other races? Racism? Media Distortion? It’s just……….
While they are contributing factors, the overwhelming reason is that it is good business. We shape the news we see by what we watch, what we click, what we read, and what we listen to. It’s all tracked, and sponsorship, advertising, products and auxiliary services are sold based upon it. It’s hard to build, but not hard to maintain if you follow the existing model of giving people what they want whether it’s the Kardashians, Ferguson, The Royal Family, The L.A. Riots, Israel and Gaza, Robin Williams’ death, O.J. Simpson or Michael Jackson. If you aren’t consuming it, they’re not going to show it, broadcast it, air it etc. The coverage is wholly based on what it is you, the public, respond to.
What does this have to do with black on black crime? Well, black perpetrators of violent crimes (the more violent the better) are popular with the public. Given the fact that from 1976 to 2005, 94 percent of black victims were killed by black offenders (never mind the fact that racial exclusivity was also true for white victims of violent crime—86 percent of white victims were killed by white offenders), and you have your black on black crime “epidemic”. This is where the racism and the media distortion contribute to a solid business model.
The vast majority of media is owned by white people who employ other white people as reporters, anchors, writers, and other positions which typically encompass the power to affect story selection. The biases and prejudices of those people are reflected in media for marketing purposes or simply because they are picking and choosing stories from their perspective. If so, it would be reasonable to expect that racial and ethnic minorities (as members of subordinate populations) would be overrepresented as offenders in crime stories but underrepresented as victims.
Many white people view large minority populations as threatening to political ascendancy, finite economic resources, and freedom from minority-on-white crime. In light of this racial threat, some will protect their interests, resulting in more pronounced prejudice and discrimination in settings where minority populations are larger.
Often reflecting the world views of audiences, media is a good means by which some people can express claims for criminalization of members of groups perceived as encroaching upon their privileges. If so, this would be reflected in a greater representation of blacks and latinos as offenders (and whites as victims) in places with larger proportions of these minority groups.
The justice system takes crimes involving white victims, especially at the hands of non-whites, more seriously than those affecting other groups. Crimes against white victims are investigated with more intensity and punished more severely than crimes against victims of color.
Victimization of persons of color is devalued (seen as representing less loss or harm to the community) while white victims are privileged (recognized as having incurred serious loss with harm to the community). This is why there is greater representation of white victims than of victims of color.
Competition for market share pressures media members to focus on stories that attract audiences, make careers, or proffer access to important sources such as law enforcement and government. Stories may be newsworthy because of some combination of timeliness, proximity, novelty, prominence, conflict, magnitude, and human interest.
Treatment of groups in these stories depends upon how newsworthy it is, and crime stories involving more powerful groups as offenders (or victims) would likely be judged as more newsworthy than those involving populations that are more often associated with crime (i.e., minorities).
Whether its statistical, status, cultural, or general departures from normal are relevant in how characteristics of a crime influences its newsworthiness. Unusual events are more likely to receive coverage than routine criminal incidents.
News is power; therefore, to the extent that the status of participants in crime (suspects or victims) departs from those with high status (white males), the less news attention the crime will receive. Finally, crimes are likely to receive more attention when they depart from dominant cultural norms about what is normal, healthy or clean (cultural deviance), as when participants are involved with drugs or gangs, or victims are regarded as especially vulnerable (e.g., children, women, the elderly).
Black on Black Crime
African-American community leaders, parents, churches, and activists have been tirelessly working to make the communities they love safer. Black on black homicides have decreased by 67% in 20 years, a sharper rate of decrease than white on white homicide. According to FBI statistics 7361 Blacks were killed by fellow African-Americans in 1991. In 2011, it dropped dramatically to 2447 African-Americans. Among black youth, rates of robbery and serious property offenses are the lowest in more than 40 years.
What do we know? We know we see what it is that we are watching. We also know that is being shown by white people from the perspective of white people, largely for white people. We know blacks as perpetrators are overrepresented in the media. We also know that while blacks as victims are underrepresented in the media, black victims and black perpetrators are considered mundane or the “norm” within society.
In other words, many (including in the black community) have not noticed the incredible reduction in black on black crime there has been because it’s not good copy. This is ironic because for many years, the black community was asking for attention to be paid at how the “War on Drugs” was causing crime and violence within our community. The phenomenon increasing black on black violence was ignored, now the decrease in black on black violence is also being ignored. Who is interested in any of that?