Right-wing media emphasized the supposed prevalence of “black-on-black” violence in response to the shooting death of unarmed black teen Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. But such emphasis takes the crime statistics out of context in order to hype the racial aspect.
Conservative Media Invoke Canard Of “Black On Black” Crime To Hijack Ferguson Conversation
WSJ's Riley: “We Need To Talk About Black Criminality.” Appearing on the August 17 edition of NBC's Meet the Press, The Wall Street Journal's Jason Riley discussed the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson by saying: “Let's not pretend that our morgues and cemeteries are full of young black men because cops are shooting them. The reality is that it's because other black people are shooting them.” Riley went on to assert that “we need to talk about black criminality” because blacks make up “50 percent of homicide victims in this country, and 90 percent of those victims are killed by other black people.” [NBC, Meet the Press, 8/17/14]
Fox's MacCallum: Where Are Obama And Sharpton On "Black-On-Black Violence?" During an August 18 segment questioning the appropriateness of President Obama sending condolences and issuing a statement about the death of Michael Brown, co-host Martha MacCallum asked: “What about the children who are being killed in the streets in Chicago? What about black-on-black violence? Where is Al Sharpton on that? Where is the president on that?” [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 8/13/14]
NRO: Black-On-Black Violence, Not “Nasty White Cops,” Are “What's Plaguing Black America.” In an August 18 post for National Review Online, Bernard Goldberg pivoted from a discussion of the death of Michael Brown to discuss how intraracial violence was “what's plaguing black America.” Goldberg declared that the “African-American elite” and “white liberals” don't care about the lives of young black men because they don't talk about black people killing one another:
That doesn't mean that all white cops are angels who don't harbor any racial animus. But when it comes to crime, nasty white cops aren't what's plaguing black America.
I'm pretty sure that if George Zimmerman had been black, we'd never know the name Trayvon Martin. And if 18-year-old Michael Brown had been white, we probably wouldn't know his name, either . . . and neither national news reporters nor the civil-rights establishment would even know what state Ferguson is in.
Members of the African-American elite, along with many white liberals, have said we don't put enough value on the lives of young black men. They certainly don't. Or they would have a lot more to say when a black kid gets shot in the street -- by another kid who is black. [National Review Online, 8/18/14]
Radio Host Limbaugh: People Don't Talk About Violence In Chicago Because It's Not “Mixed Race.” During the August 14 edition of his radio show, host Rush Limbaugh complained that people don't pay attention to violent deaths in Chicago because they were not “mixed-race” murders like the Brown shooting in Ferguson, which he deemed to be “made to order ... for outrage” by the media. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 8/14/14]
Black-On-Black Murder Statistics “Lack Important Context”
PolitiFact: Claims Of Black-On-Black Violence “Lack Important Context.” In 2013, PolitiFact analyzed claims of black-on-black violence made popular during the racially charged Trayvon Martin trial. Concluding that these claims lacked “important context,” they explained that while it is true that most black murders are intraracial, this also “holds true for whites”:
Also, this claim lacks important context. Yes, it's true that the majority of black murder victims are murdered by blacks, but the same holds true for whites: Most whites are murdered by whites. And in both cases, this race statistic is not available for all murders, but only ones where the race of both perpetrator and victim can be determined. [PolitiFact, 7/14/13]
Daily Beast: “There's No Such Thing As 'Black-On-Black' Crime.” In a July 2013 article for The Daily Beast, Jamelle Bouie said that “there's no such thing” as “black-on-black” crime, explaining that “for the large majority of crimes, you'll find that victims and offenders share a racial identity” (emphasis added):
But there's a huge problem with attempt to shift the conversation: There's no such thing as “black-on-black” crime. Yes, from 1976 to 2005, 94 percent of black victims were killed by black offenders, but that racial exclusivity was also true for white victims of violent crime -- 86 percent were killed by white offenders. Indeed, for the large majority of crimes, you'll find that victims and offenders share a racial identity, or have some prior relationship to each other.
What Shapiro and others miss about crime, in general, is that it's driven by opportunism and proximity; If African-Americans are more likely to be robbed, or injured, or killed by other African-Americans, it's because they tend to live in the same neighborhoods as each other. Residential statistics bear this out (PDF); blacks are still more likely to live near each other or other minority groups than they are to whites. And of course, the reverse holds as well -- whites are much more likely to live near other whites than they are to minorities and African-Americans in particular. [The Daily Beast, 7/15/13]
FBI Data Show That White Police Officers Killed A Black Person “Nearly Two Times A Week”
USA Today: Shooting Of Michael Brown “Not An Isolated Incident.” In an August 15 article, USA Today reported that a black person had been killed by a white police officer “nearly two times a week” over a seven-year period ending in 2012. Citing data from the FBI, the article explained that the numbers show the death of unarmed teen Michael Brown at the hands of a police officer was “not an isolated event in American policing”:
Nearly two times a week in the United States, a white police officer killed a black person during a seven-year period ending in 2012, according to the most recent accounts of justifiable homicide reported to the FBI.
On average, there were 96 such incidents among at least 400 police killings each year that were reported to the FBI by local police. The numbers appear to show that the shooting of a black teenager in Ferguson, Mo., last Saturday was not an isolated event in American policing.
The reports show that 18% of the blacks killed during those seven years were under age 21, compared to 8.7% of whites. [USA Today, 8/15/14]