Black Lives Matter is a national organization working for the validity of Black life. As one of their websites puts it, “We are working to (re)build the Black liberation movement.” Black Lives Matter (BLM) was created in 2012 after Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman. Zimmerman was acquitted for his crime and Los Angeles, as well as the nation, expressed outrage at the direction the trial went and the final judgment. Black Lives Matter is intended to broaden the conversation around state violence to include all of the ways that Black people are marginalized at the hands of the state. “We are talking about the ways in which Black lives are deprived of our basic human rights and dignity.” [http://blacklivesmatter.com/about/]
The BLM movement is focused on the State and how the State has left them powerless to affect change in their communities and over their own lives. BLM’s momentum is fueled by police killings of Black individuals. Since 2012, and obviously before, there have been multiple, unfortunate killings of Black people. Just to a name a few that made big headlines: Trayvon Martin, Philando Castile, Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice. This is not an exhaustive list, these are just a few of the stories that gained national attention. Now, any killing of a Black person that was unnecessary, on purpose, or because a lack of training is a horrible tragedy. Even the accidental or incidental killing of a Black person by a police officer, is horrible and the goal of the State and agencies should always to be minimize any fatalities. There is no doubt that black people and police departments would benefit from more accountability, body cameras, implicit bias training, and more training in general but, nationwide, police departments are beginning to react to these demands and are implementing trainings involving racial bias and more departments are getting body cameras as they can afford them.
BML, when reading their websites and seeing their protests signs, has seemingly turned into a movement that focuses on how the actions of White officers and how they negatively affect them. There is something to be said for the justified uproar and outrage the Black community expresses when a Black individual is unjustifiably killed at the hands of law enforcement and that individual is not prosecuted.
The interesting dynamic of the movement Black Lives Matter is the sole focus on law enforcement killings of Black individuals rather than focusing on the greatest cause of death for Black individuals, black-on-black crime. To be clear, the issue of law enforcement killings and black-on-black crime are distinct and separate issues. But, there is some intertwining of the issues in regards to a vicious cycle of lack of trust and continued violence.
The FBI statistics for 2014 provide the following information:
- Homicides in the US by victim and perpetrator, 2014 measured in percent of total victims in the ethnic group:
- Blacks killed by whites: 7.6%
- Whites killed by whites: 82.4%
- Whites killed by blacks: 14.8%
- Blacks killed by blacks: 90%
Another way to look at these numbers is to take deaths as a share of the victim’s population; that’s the measure of the risk to any person of dying at the hands of each ethnic group. A black person runs a far higher risk of being killed by another black person than any other combination. Arguably, the best way to minimize black-on-black crime is by improving relations with law enforcement in those communities.
The hostilities between the Black community and the police are especially troublesome when looked at in conjunction with black-on-black crime. Deteriorated relations between law enforcement and the Black community give way to a deadly cycle of death and violence within the community. When a Black individual is killed by another Black individual living in that community, and the people of that community don’t work with police because of the lack of trust, it leaves dangerous, criminals in these communities to continue perpetrating crimes against their own people. Data is clear in showing that Black people are at a significantly higher risk of being killed by other Black people, and as long as relations between law enforcement and the Black communities stand as is, this unfortunate cycle will continue. The responsibility to improve these relations should reside with both law enforcement and the Black community. In order for law enforcement to do their job, the Black community must find a way to encourage others to cooperate with police when they know something and, vice versa. In order for the Black community to trust law enforcement, law enforcement must treat the Black community with respect and not instill fear in the communities they police.
The only way to truly improve the lives of Black people in America is when Blacks and Whites alike can take responsibility for their current situations and actions.
Should Black Lives Matter Focus on Black-on-Black Murders? https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/10/black-lives-matter-loury-mcwhorter/409117/
Myrtle Cole and the Facts about Black-on-Black Crime http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/data-watch/sdut-myrtle-cole-racial-profiling-datawatch-followup-2016aug12-htmlstory.html
2014 Crime in the United States: FBI Statistics
Black Lives Matter