Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Black Men and Crime What’s The Story?

I came across a page reflecting crime statistics that gave me a moments pause.

imageEach day, the New York Police Department announces major crimes, including most homicides, in the five boroughs. This data is compiled from those reports, in addition to news accounts, court records and additional reporting.”

If we believe these statistics to be true, in the majority of the crime committed in New York City the perpetrator is of color.   It is by now common knowledge that POC are for over represented in the prison population relative to the percentage of the population that they make up. Whites are quick to point to statistics like above to justify racial profiling in police work; to them it only seems common sense to target POC because statistically they/we are the criminals. 

image White panic is behind much of the tough on crime rhetoric despite the fact that most of the victims of crime are men of color.  This is in direct contradiction to the medias portrayal of Black men assaulting various members of society.  If any alarm should be sounding, it should be in the Black community because these statistics reveal that we are largely dying by our own hand.  We are loathe to discuss the amount of intra-racial criminal activity within our communities but we cannot ignore that we have lost two generations of young men to either death or the penal system. 

It is easy to look at the statistics and claim that POC are predisposed to commit crime; White fear is predicated on that very same erroneous fact.  When a child is born it has just as much potential as any other baby, the problem is that we have so stratified our society that not all children are able to live up to their innate potential. A child born into the suburbs with parents who are either middle class to upper middle class will have a completely different experience growing up than a child that is born into poverty.  Even having one parent versus two will remarkably change the life course of many infants.

A child of the middle/upper class will not have to dodge bullets, avoid gang initiation or even burry a friend before their twenty first birthday.   Education will be encouraged in their home and parents will have the income to supplement learning opportunities that are offered through school.   A simple thing like having clothes that fit and a stomach full of nutritious food is a luxury to many children growing in poverty.

The issue is not that Blacks are predisposed to crime but that the circumstances of existing as a body of color in a society that is determined that our children fail leads to these criminal acts.  There are more middle/upper class Blacks than ever before but poverty continues to be a nagging reminder of the ways in which White privilege ensures that there is a divide between the races.  We cannot all pull ourselves up by the bootstraps in a system that is designed to ensure that Blacks remain at the working/under class level.  To this day, if a Black man and a White man are standing next to each other in identical clothing, it will be assumed that the Black man is functioning on a menial/service sector position.

As damaging as these statistics are they only speak a partial truth.  A POC is far more likely to interact with the police thereby increasing the possibility of a negative interaction.   It is a well known fact that police regularly harass communities of color whereas they act as gatekeepers in rich or affluent neighbourhoods ensuring that no “darkie” is there for a nefarious purpose.

Statistics no matter how comprehensive do not explain social facts.  Simply by looking at the figures can never account for things like racism, or classism which are known to be rampant in society.   To save young Black boys action must be taken on many levels.  Were such damaging statistics to be aimed at young white boys one can be certain that action would already have been taken.  The fact that this is allowed to continue proves that MOC are socially devalued.