During a recent Washington Post piece, Columbia University professor John McWhorter attempted to take the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement to task for only focusing upon police brutality. There is no need to rehash the innumerable instances of African-Americans perishing at the hands of officers, names such as, Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner, quickly come to mind.
The ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement arose as a declarative sentence emphasizing the value of African-American lives. The slogan was specific, timely, and appropriate. ‘Black Lives Matter’ members were issuing a demand for law enforcement officers to stop shooting down African-Americans in the street. When such shootings did occur, ‘Black Lives Matter’ demanded transparency and justice. The ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement should be applauded for ensuring that the issue of officers’ murdering African-Americans remained on the front page of newspapers across the nation.
The greatest indicator that the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement has made an impact are the subsequent attacks emanating from law enforcement agencies and a multi-racial population of Americans who desperately sought to mute the movement with a slogan of their own; such individuals countered ‘Black Lives Matter’ with ‘All Lives Matter’. The opponents of ‘Black Lives Matter’ actually charged that the slogan implicitly called for retaliatory violence against law enforcement officers.
Predictably, whites’ have been joined in their dastardly attempt to sidetrack the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement by so-called ‘black intellectuals’ who routinely present themselves as African-American men, but are actually little more than Negro’s in disguise. John McWhorter is one of the most consistent and prominent ‘intellectuals’ that this tag fits.
For those unfamiliar with McWhorter, he has frequently served as a basher of both African-American culture and citizens with an uncommon ferocity that undoubtedly pleases white conservatives. It would be an understatement to say that McWhorter has been rewarded for his criticisms of Black America. So I was unsurprised at his recent writings criticizing the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement for failing to address Black-on-Black violence.
Put simply, McWhorter’s argument boils down to an acknowledgement that yes it is true that officers are unjustifiably killing African-Americans in the streets of America, however, how dare the ‘Black Lives Matter’ point out this fact without working to subdue the daily Black-on-Black violence occurring in the Black community.
There is little doubt that McWhorter is brilliant man, however, on this occasion he fails to realize that the solution to officers’ shooting down African-Americans in the street is a relatively easy fix as it calls for better training of officers’ and harsh reprisals be doled out for the violation of departmental guidelines and/or the violation of a citizen’s human rights, while Black-on-Black violence is a much more convoluted issue that should never be solely placed at the feet of the African-American community as it is a problem that will require the full force of the entire American populace, including the U.S. Government, to solve. It is difficult to comprehend that McWhorter does not understand that the issue of Black-on-Black violence is much different than police brutality. Although it is unfashionable to state, the truth of the matter is that Black-on-Black crime/violence does not have its genesis within the Black community so in many ways it is disingenuous to expect for African-Americans to solve this pernicious evil on its own.
Despite what has been propagated via the media, Black-on-Black crime is a predictable occurrence that is bound to occur whenever a population of citizens, regardless of their racial identity/ethnicity or geographic distinction, is left with marginal educational resources/access, few employment opportunities, social ostracism, and are the recipient of poor city services. There is little doubt that such poverty, listlessness, and absence of hope, regardless if the population is Jewish, Black, Russian, Irish, or Palestinian, is bound to result in the affected turning on one another in a desperate pursuit of resources.
Houston, Texas, based rapper Scarface of the Geto Boys, offered piercing commentary regarding this matter in a classic song, The World is a Ghetto.
I’m from the ghetto so I’m used to that
Look on your muthafuckin map and find Texas
And see where Houston at
Its on the borderline of hard times
And it’s seldom that your hear niggas breakin’ and givin’ God time…
And every morning I wake up I’m kinda glad to be alive
Cause thousands of my homeboys died
And very few died of old age
In most cases the incident covered up the whole page
From Amsterdam to Amarillo
It ain’t no secret
The world is a ghetto
What many, including McWhorter, are afraid to discuss is the reality that there is no gene that makes African-Americans more likely to commit crime. The catalyst for Black-on-Black crime is found in larger societal forces such as the economy, educational system, political arena, and a draconian criminal justice system that routinely differentiates sentencing according to racial background of the convicted.
Hence, the question facing not just African-Americans, but also the nation is as follows; what are we as a collective, meaning all Americans, willing to do to correct the maladies flowing from impoverished areas. Predictably, African-Americans, like the Jews during the Nazi Holocaust and present-day Palestinians, have been attacked for their impoverished status with arguments that implicitly state that if only they tried harder, made better choices, or lived better, they would be able to lift themselves out of economic depravity. The central problem with such arguments is that personal effort has little to do with any of the catalyst behind contemporary Black politico economic poverty.
Despite this nation’s collective resistance to admit it, the issue of Black-on-Black violence is a national issue that needs to be addressed by the U.S. Government with a Marshall Plan. Instead of dumping millions of dollars in foreign economies, such dollars should be infused into urban enclaves to address lacking areas such as: education, job training, and business loans. There is little doubt that racial self-help programs will never be able to eradicate the tide of nihilism currently affecting so many African-American neighborhoods.
These realities make John McWhorter’s criticism of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement flawed at a primary level. There is no doubt that the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement could very well address the issue of Black-on-Black violence, however, their contribution would in no way impact the fundamental problems affecting this nation’s urban centers. This is an issue that could only be solved with the full focus and brunt of the U.S. Government, not a citizen group that is still struggling to be heard on a daily basis.
James Thomas Jones III, Ph. D.
©Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2015