In the United States, a white person is almost six times more likely to be killed by another white person than he or she is to be killed by a black person. Yet, while the media obsesses about black on black violence we rarely if ever hear any mention of the problem of white on white violence. In fact, in 2011 (the most recent year available) according to FBI homicide data there were more instances of white homicides committed against white victims than there were black on black murders. This statistic however has not led to a media outcry about the problem of white on white crime or the unique pathology of the white community. Such broad brush characterizations would probably be regarded as unfair and irresponsible, and justly so, since most white people do not in fact kill other white people. Yet, the same media pundits, from Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly to CNN’s Don Lemon, have no problem referencing “black on black” violence, despite the fact that most African-Americans do not kill other black people.
When media discussions talk about gang-related homicides, they invariably treat it as an almost exclusively African-American problem, yet according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics for the period from 1980 to 2008, a majority (53.3 percent) of gang-homicides were committed by white offenders, and a majority of gang-homicide victims (56.5 percent) were white. When was the last time you heard a discussion about the white on white gang violence problem?
The vast majority of homicides are male on male murders, but we hear little to no discussion of male on male violence, or the unique pathology that afflicts men. This is because, without any awareness of bias, crimes by white men are explained not by race or gender but by the unique pathology of the specific person whose race, being white, is therefore deemed irrelevant. Adam Lanza or James Holmes are treated as aberrant individuals whose criminal personalities drove them to commit their crimes, but nobody refers to them as examples of the inherent failure of male culture or as proof of the social breakdown of the white family and the white community. The crimes of a James Holmes, or a Jerry Sandusky, or a Timothy McVeigh, or a Ted Bundy are never attributed to some inherent defect in white culture or a failure of white people to police their own, yet their crimes are no less representative of “whiteness” than a Chicago African-American youth’s drive-by-shooting is representative of “blackness”.
The manifest benefit of white privilege is that any crimes committed by white people can be explained away as anomalies that are unique to the individual and that have nothing to do with race, but crimes committed by a single African-American or Latino individual are somehow attributed to the special pathologies of the “racialized other”. The murderous black gangster from South Chicago or East Los Angeles is somehow a symbol that young black men or young Latino men are to be feared, but there is no corresponding fear that should be attached to the aberrent murders committed by a white Neo-Nazi skinhead or a disgruntled young white man like Adam Lanza. Lanza and the skinhead street gangster do not represent white people, but for some reason a black gang-banger can represent all black people or at least all young black men?
Black on black violence is a defamatory label that assigns special racial significance to crimes committed by one black man against another without recognizing the complex sociological variables that account for the violence. A black on black homicide could just as well be termed male on male murder, or heterosexual on heterosexual crime or American on American homicide. None of these terms would have great explanatory power in dealing with the complexity of reasons for committing a homicide, but they are no more foolish than the term black on black violence, which foregrounds race as if it is the one compelling explanatory variable for understanding the crime, when in most cases it is not.
Rather than calling it black on black violence, we ought to just call it violence. However, if Bill O’Reilly and Don Lemon want to make crimes about race, then maybe they can discuss why a white person is six times more likely to be murdered by another white person than by a black person, and also why in 2011, more whites were murdered by fellow whites than blacks were murdered by other blacks. Perhaps, we could have a community forum on how to address the continuing slaughter of white men by other white men. Maybe we could even discuss the pathology of affluent two parent suburban homes that create monsters like James Holmes. The only reason we cannot discuss those issues is because it does not fit the narrative of black criminality which dominates our political discourse even as our pundits pretend to live in a post-racial society that no longer judges people on race, while they do exactly that.