The Red Herring Of ‘Black On Black’ Crime – Continued


Question & Answer

Q: By Susan
As an active UCC member, I was looking forward to reading Dr. Dorhauer’s response. I came away disappointed, however. Though I agree that certainly there are sociological reasons for it (as alluded to at the end), I believe black-on-black crime is a legitimate problem. I was troubled by the suggestion that to even ask the question or use the phrase is racist and meant to perpetuate the larger narrative of “the black man as a savage beast” (which leads to “shoot-to-kill” justification). Since I am originally from Chicago, I regularly see items about all the shootings, etc. I wince when people say that “they seem to be killing each other” because I think it hurts the Black Lives Matter cause. Citing the statistic that “the offender in a violent crime was of the same race as the victim in 70% of violent incidents involving black victims and 62% of incidents involving whites” is really useless (and probably misleading – a red herring?) unless we know the number of crimes for each category. I don’t think it’s racist to believe the number is higher among blacks. I’d be happy to be shown that I am wrong about this. I DO realize that the problem of racial profiling is real, but I don’t think the perception that “they are killing each other (too)” should be dismissed as racist.

A: By Rev. Dr. John C. Dorhauer
Dear Susan,

First, let me thank the reader for the question. It is an important one, and affords me an opportunity to be a little more clear about some things.

First, the question about ‘black on black’ crime is not, on its face, racist. There are, as you suggest, legitimate questions to resolve about this phenomenon. I do want to say two things about those legitimate questions.

One: As a white man with a degree in divinity studies, I am not the one who needs to answer them.

Second: Sociologists, anthropologists, psychologists, economists, and others have looked into this. As long as they claim to know and understand fully the cultural context of black communities in America, it is they whose writings should be consulted here. The full examination of the pressures put on black citizens in a systemically racist culture that produces micro-aggressions, mass incarceration, unfair distribution of and access to wealth and education must be conducted to get at the root of this.

What is racist is the application by whites of the question ‘what about black on black crime’ as a way of deflecting attention from the abuse of power and authority by white cops who racially profile black suspects. When black and brown bodies pile up under conditions that clearly demonstrate that many white police officers carry an already inherent predisposition to fear those black bodies, it is racist to avoid looking into that phenomenon by simply asking “well, what about black on black crime.”

Additionally, most crime is committed within a short radius of one’s home – and that is why most crimes are same-race crimes. Therefore, I suggest, it is, in fact, racist when a white person asks “what about black on black crime” without then having a simultaneous curiosity about white on white crime – which is just as statistically probable.

~ Rev. Dr. John C. Dorhauer

***This Q&A was originally published on Progressing Spirit – As a member of this online community, you’ll receive insightful weekly essays, access to all of the essay archives (including all of Bishop John Shelby Spong), and answers to your questions in our free weekly Q&A. Click here to see free sample essays.

About the Author
Rev. Dr. John C. Dorhauer was granted a Doctoral Degree in White Privilege Studies in 2007 from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, OH. He also has degrees in Theology and Philosophy. He is the author of two published books, Beyond Resistance: the Institutional Church Meets the Postmodern World and Steeplejacking: How the Christian Right Hijacked Mainstream ReligionHe is a recipient of Eden Seminary’s “Shalom  Award,” given by  the student body for a lifetime of committed work for peace and justice. John was ordained as a Christian minister in 1988. He currently  serves as the 9th General Minister  of the United Church of Christ, one of the USA’s most progressive faiths, whose vision is “A Just World for All.” He is a frequent speaker on  the subject of white privilege, and is especially committed to engaging white audiences to come to deeper understandings of the privilege. He is  particularly interested  in how whites manifest privilege every day and how it impacts people of color, two things whites remain largely either ignorant of or in denial about.

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