Black Lives Matter and the Intra-Racial Crime Rate Fallacy

By Cyberquill 08/22/20152 Comments

One of the criticisms leveled at the Black Lives Matter movement is that its slogan says black lives matter instead of all lives matter.

Given the disproportionate plight of African-Americans versus whites in terms of general upward mobility and the potential for finding themselves at the receiving end of a deadly weapon, I personally don’t mind the movement’s exclusive focus on the value of black lives. My problem with it, as I’ve stated in several previous posts on the subject, lies in the highly selective application of its stated motto as if some black lives mattered more than others—a lot more.

My little white mind has difficulty wrapping itself around the concept that a movement that calls itself “Black Lives Matter” appears to aim its attention almost entirely at white-on-black and cop-on-black incidents while seeming utterly disinclined to address black-on-black violence at all, even though the latter claims the lion share of black homicide victims, whose lives, one would think, should matter no less than a black man’s choked to death by a white policeman. The value of a life ought not to be measured in terms of who it was that took it.

Of course, I understand that the anger of the black community—if I may generalize—is directed primarily at the so-called white establishment, not so much against blacks that cause carnage within their own ranks. These blacks, after all, may be viewed as victims of institutional white racism themselves, who merely abreact their despondency in unfortunate ways. Fifteen black people getting shot by black gang bangers over the course of a weekend simply don’t hit the collective black nerve the same way one black person getting shot by a white civilian or a uniformed enforcer of “white law” does.

But then again, if one were to regard black crime as largely fueled by desperation resulting from white oppression, it follows that, indirectly at least, black-on-black victims are de-facto white-on-black victims, which should rouse the Black Lives Matter folks from the woodworks, which it strangely does not.

But how can one blame inner city conditions on white neglect and oppression and then treat the goings-on within these communities as if the white man had no hand in them? Yet if the white man is indeed responsible for these conditions, where’s Black Lives Matter whenever, as a likely consequence of these conditions, a black kid is gunned down by another black kid?

And so—in my humble, white, and hence woefully ignorant opinion—it makes no sense for signs that say “Black Lives Matter” to remain hidden in the closet whenever black kills black, to be wielded only in the wake of those much rarer occasions when white or cop kills black. (It only makes sense if Black Lives Matter activists are worried, as I’ve theorized before, that by highlighting incidents of black-on-black violence with anywhere near as much fervor as they highlight white/cop-on-black ones, they’d inadvertently reinforce the stereotype of the black criminal, as it would prove rather difficult to hold nationwide rallies and candlelight vigils for a black-on-black victim without reminding the public that a black perpetrator was involved.)

At this point in the discussion—a lot sooner, probably—Black Lives Matter sympathizers tend to wax irritable to apoplectic, harping upon the, in their view, blatant irrelevance of black-on-black crime in this context, the reason being that most crime is intra-racial, among all racial groups, even among whites.

So what on earth, they ask, does the fact that the majority of blacks that are killed are killed by other blacks have to do with the concept that black lives matter? If a white person insists that the Black Lives Matter movement include black-on-black violence, then how come he or she doesn’t start a White Lives Matter movement to address white-on-white violence?

The idea that black-on-black violence and white-on-white violence are problems of roughly equal proportions derives from a stubbornly persistent misreading of intra-racial crime stats, an error eloquently illustrated in the following commentary by one Kesha on Facebook:

[P]eople tend to commit crimes within their own communities. The media does not portray these crimes equally because the media tends to perpetuate the stereotype that there is more black crime than white crime. That’s their agenda and has been so forever. There is only a 7% difference in numbers statistically speaking on average when comparing black crime and white crime in America (I’m a Google addict!). That’s not that big of a difference.”

Obviously, Kesha the Google addict has come across the standard figures, namely that black-on-black crime is 92% (i.e., that of all black victims of violence, 92% are harmed or killed by other blacks), and that white-on-white crime is 85% (i.e., that of all white victims of violence, 85% are harmed or killed by other whites), whereupon she merrily extrapolated from these numbers that black-on-black violent crime is only 7% worse than white-on-white violent crime.

The trouble with her conclusion, of course, is that the 92% and 85% figures fail to tell us the size of the victims pool in each group—they don’t tell us 92% or 85% of how many.

Let’s assume, as a hypothetical example, that ten members of Group X are murdered, nine of them by other members of Group X. This works out to an X-on-X murder rate of 90%.

Let us further assume that during that same time period, 100 members of Group Y are murdered, 91 of them by other members of Group Y, which works out to a Y-on-Y murder rate of 91%.

So you have 90% versus 91%, a mere one percent difference, which proves that the X-on-X and the Y-on-Y murder rates are pretty much the same, right?

Sure, unless you turn your attention to the minor detail that you have ten times more dead bodies piling up in one group than in the other, a disparity that becomes the more significant and troubling the smaller the total population of Group Y relative to Group X.

While the murder rates within my hypothetical groups X and Y do not accurately reflect white vs black intra-racial murder rates—I used simple numbers for demonstration purposes—the very statistics that Kesha the Google addict has cited also show that, in absolute numbers, more blacks are killed by other blacks than whites are killed by other whites—and that’s no mean feat, given that blacks make up 13% of the total U.S. population, whereas whites make up more than half.

In other words, black-on-black violence is through the roof relative to white-on-white, and it is a fallacy to advertise the disparity as a mere seven percent, just as it would be a fallacy to advertise the difference between my hypothetical X-on-X and Y-on-Y crime rates as a mere one percent without stacking up the actual number of victims in each group against the total size of each group.

So if “the media tends to perpetuate the stereotype that there’s more black crime than white crime,” it’s because, well, yeah, unfortunately there is, provided you actually bother to count victims instead of comparing meaningless percentages.

Thus, it strikes me as a gross omission by Black Lives Matter to refuse to address black-on-black crime on grounds that “people tend to commit crimes within their own communities,” wherefore intra-racial crime might as well be put down as a sad fact of life that affects all communities equally.

It doesn’t, and to pretend that it does helps no one, least of all those most at risk to wind up dead tomorrow.

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  • Cheri

    This is a thoughtful and reasoned essay on the current slogan, Black Lives Matter.”

    I’m thinking about post Holocaust, too. I don’t think I have ever seen a sign since 1945 that said, “Jewish Lives Matter,” nor do I remember seeing any signs after Nanking that said, “Chinese Lives Matter,” nor were their signs erected in Hastings in 1066 that said, “English Lives Matter. ”

    My husband was assigned to the Criminal Superior Court in Oakland, California, for one year. During that time, the majority of trials over which he presided were black on black crime.

    • http://blog.cyberquill.com/ Cyberquill

      Yeah, but it is deemed racially insensitive of us white people to even use the expression “black-on-black crime,” not to mention off-topic in the context of Black Lives Matter. Trying to steer the conversation in that direction instantly brands us as ignorant white folk that don’t get it and are therefore part of the problem.

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