Black-on-black crime is a catchphrase too commonly heard these days – not to mention claimed to be misinterpreted at many fronts. The term basically refers to the rampant crime rate of black people against their own race in functioning urban societies, and the contributive role that it plays in that community.

Amidst the current wave of justice labeled as the ‘Black lives matter’- a movement which rants out against the systemic police brutality escalating in the US (no doubt in full swing as an inherited trademark of the racially-spiked Trump era), the controversial phrase of black on black crime nevertheless, gives an understanding of the other side of the coin where the flow of crime runs the other way round too- equally objectionable, grim and worth pondering.

Black on black crime in the US

It is imperative to understand that upheavals, disturbances, inter-racial violence, and crime are bound to be incurred by a society that hosts multiple racial backgrounds in a discriminative setup such as the United States of America.

Taking an insight into American history, it cannot be denied that the country traces racist structuralism that has deliberately excluded the right of equal opportunities to the people of color in terms of growth opportunities, education, prosperity, and employment. Based on these facts, it is highly predictable that the deprived sections (minorities) are bound to be inclined towards erroneous, illegal, and criminal measures to meet their requisites that run on to generations – though not legally justifiable,  but understandable as an outcome of circumstances leading to it.

Here is where we can identify the loops and lapses prevailing in the judicial system and constitutional clauses of the USA that have failed to retain a level of justice between its nationals and hence, have created a pathway that is vulnerable, misleading, and prone to non-conducive national consequences. These evolutionary consequences are glaringly discernible under the contemporary US political scenario where the crime rate of the black people is escalating not only as an inter-racial hostility between the black and white people but also within its own racial community known as the ‘black on black crime ‘.

Many scholars and activists trace the black-on-black crime phenomenon to the ‘race factor’ rather than the lack of opportunities. It is commonly seen that white supremacists have usually identified the black race to be inherently more violent and illicit. In view of the growing rate of black law-breaking, it is argued that the term ‘black on black crime’ brings to mind a race, which according to David Wilson, professor, University of Illinois, implies that the race itself is at the core of the criminality process.  Others perceive this extreme viewpoint as a racist tactic to justify the mistreatment the people of color have been subjected to after the abolishment of their slavery.

Jason Riley, editorial board writer, Wall Street Journal, in 2014 asserted not to keep believing that the cemeteries and morgues are filled with corpses just because of the police. Rather let’s face reality because black people are also carrying out killings. It is not any single section of the society responsible for the prevalent criminality in the society.

Talking in the official context, US federal data records indicate the rate of black-on-black crime and that of white-on-white crime rate from 1980 to 2008 were almost the same.

In the FBI’s 2014 Universal Crime Report, 90 percent of black people were killed by other black men, while 14.8 percent of white people were killed by blacks.  Former New York Mayor, Rudy Giuliani stated that 93% of the blacks were killed by same-race members.

Crime analysis report of the U.S Department of Justice in 2017, indicated that out of the total crimes committed from 2012 to 2015, 22.7% were committed by the black people out of which 63% were towards their own black race- indicative of a high black on the black crime rate.

In comparison, the total crimes committed by white people comprised 57% against their own white race concluding that under both circumstances, the crime rate committed against their own race was just about the same. However, it’s all a matter of the hype that is created and it is argued that people don’t discuss the white on white crime problem, in such cases it is only termed as a crime, and race isn’t considered.

E.W Bishop, a conservative African minister, and lawyer, in a podcast in 2019, said that the greatest danger for a black man residing in America is not the uniform police officer, but another black man himself.  In view of the same, it is argued by many who believe that the black community should stop playing the victim card in all situations, and not only identify its criminal problem, but also try to resolve it.

Historical use of the term

Published in 1986, though the book ‘The Race Traits and Tendencies of the American Negro’ did not specifically use the term, it fueled the notion of black people having a crime problem indirectly.

The first use of the term black on black crime phrase dates back to its use in the 70s when the supremacist vision of crime being an inherent attribute of the black race was in full swing.

Later, the phrase was used in a featured article by a black-owned magazine in 1979, the Ebony magazine that focused on African Americans. It upheld that the people of color were not responsible for the crime breeding grounds that generated as an outcome of external factors and circumstances but the community has a responsibility to tackle the problem from within.

The terminology was also used by the Black Enterprise magazine (also owned by a black) in its June 1979 issue which reported that people may not be aware of the rising concern of the black on black crime via newspapers and televisions, but crime in big cities is mostly committed by blacks on blacks.