Over 90 percent of crimes against black people are committed by black people. Sounds awful, right? “They’re all killing each other,” you’ll often hear from the mouths of white suburbanites.
It’s a nice diversion, but it’s totally irrelevant when discussing the fairness of America’s justice system.
What if I told you that nearly 85 percent of crimes against white people are committed by other white people? That’s a totally real statistic, just like the frequently discussed black-on-black crime percentage, but I haven’t heard many people talking about.
I have a crazy suggestion: crime is bad and often tragic, regardless of who does it – blacks, whites, yellows, purples.
The fact that crime against a person of particular race is often done by someone under the same racial umbrella isn’t some groundbreaking piece of news; it’s a result of geography and the human tendency to live in areas where most people look similar to you.
In other words, I’m white, most people I know are white, and the neighborhood I live in is predominately white. If someone is going to commit a crime against me, it’s highly likely that the person will be white. This is not some big New York Times scoop, and anyone throwing out these irrelevant numbers is simply avoiding a more important, complicated discussion.
We all know crime is bad, regardless of which skin color commits it, but the question is whether or not our justice system is fairly doling out punishment for those crimes – or not doling out a just punishment when a certain race commits them.
So when you hear somebody cut off a debate about inequality in our justice system by either bringing up similar crimes against white people or falling back on the black-on-black crime numbers, chances are they’re just not willing to have an honest discussion – or they simply have biases of their own.
The good news is you don’t have to simply take my word for it when I say that there are clear racial disparities built into our system; the numbers speak for themselves.
African-Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of white people, and one-third of black males will see prison time in their lives (Bureau of Justice Statistics).
Black and white people use drugs at roughly the same rate, yet black people are almost four times more likely to be arrested for it (Human Rights Watch).
African-Americans serve about as much time in prison for a drug offense as white people do for a violent offense (Sentencing Project).
Men of color are four times more likely to be shot and killed than somebody who looks like me (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), and black teens are 21 times more likely to be shot by a police officer than a white person of the same age (ProPublica; FBI).
In total, black and brown people make up a combined 58 percent of our prisons, while those two racial categories make up only a quarter of the American population.
This is neither my opinion, nor is it an attempt to incite a race war. These are the facts. And anyone who cares about living in a country that strives to treat its citizens equally would recognize that we need to fix these things.
If we come together, we can do just that.