A couple of days ago I had the privilege of bearing witness to a discussion that my little brother, Jason, and a very good friend, DLabrie were having on Facebook. Honestly, it was more like an argument, but can you really call replying to each others’ comments an argument? It all started with Amos Smith, the 26 year old gentleman who was shot 8 times in the back of the head by police in Union City, CA. My friend posted the story and called people to action (protest not violence), there were a couple of replies, and then my brother set it off. Lol. He responded with something that questioned why the outrage for this when black men are killing each other everyday? My friend, in reply, states that it’s two different issues, my brother disagrees, and then comes the shit storm.
People began responding, each basically picking a side: Team DLabrie or Team Jason. The battle lines were set, and 150 or so posts later there was really no more agreement than in the first four posts. Tempted to chime in with my own views, I refrained and observed. I saw no need to. This argument has been going on since the early 80’s, around the time that crack hit the streets. Black and whites folks, conservatives and liberals, the wealthy and the poor alike, all have accepted the fact that Urban America is in a state of emergency. But why? Why is it in a state of emergency? Or better yet, why do people think that Urban America is in a state of emergency when the numbers state that things are trending towards the exact opposite?
There’s this stat that everyone used to quote, “The average life expectancy of Black males in the ‘80’s was 21 years old.” Growing up in Compton, I was quick to confirm this because shit was crazy back then; however, over the years I began to question whether that was actually true, because, according to this, most of my childhood friends should be dead.
Intrigued, one day I had opened the laptop and began to search the quote. I found nothing that dealt with that. What I did find, even though not directly related, was that the life expectancy of Black males in America rose from 68.8 - 70.3 years of age from 2003-2008. This was mainly due to the decrease in deaths due to HIV and heart disease. Great news, but not really what I was looking for.
So I took a different approach, and Googled “crime in Black America.” I still found nothing on that quote; however, something did catch my eye. This blog post called “Five Myths About Crime In Black America” on the blog site www.colorlines.com.
The article, which is really a collection of statistics from various sources, discussed what the writer saw as the five biggest myths about crime in Black America, and I admit that I was pretty astonished by the numbers. Among them was that violent crime has decreased from 758 per 100,000 citizens in 1991 to 404 in 2010, and that the percentage of White on White homicides since 1976 are about as high as Black on Black ones. It sited The Bureau of Investigations and FBI as its sources.
Further intrigued and not totally convinced that this could be true, I began to research things on a more personal level by looking at numbers on Compton. In a place more known for its gangs, drugs, and drive-by’s than anything else, it was incredible to find that there was only 17 homicides in 2011 and 26 gun deaths in 2010, both being down from 42 in 2009. This is compared to the estimated 96,455 legal residents of the city. Right now, the city is experiencing the lowest number of homicides since 1972.
So if all of this is fact for a city that has the reputation that Compton had earned and, in many cases, boasted of over the years, could it be logical to assume that the same could apply to other Urban areas in this country? Not really with an immediate answer and already with an overflowing plate of life containing marriage, fatherhood, and music, I filed it in the “interesting facts that I can use in discussions” part of my brain and moved on. That is until the conversation between Jason and DLabrie.
Finding myself compelled to revisit this, I busted out my handy dandy laptop, and went to the FBI database to check numbers. Just as the article from www.colorlines.com stated, violent crime has decreased drastically since the 90’s. Murder dropped 14.7% between 2007 and 2011, and 10% if start comparing from 2002. Looking deeper, I searched cities that had high populations of Blacks.
In Atlanta, where I currently live, homicide dropped 57% from 2001 to 2009. Furthermore, in 2011 there were only 88 homicides out of a city population of about 425,000.
In Los Angeles, there were 297 homicides in 2011 for a city population of nearly 4 million. This is well under 1993, when it was 21.1 per 100,00 people. In fact, between 2009-2011, L.A.has been experiencing a 50 year low.
I found similar numbers for most cities that I checked; however, there were some that, to be honest, made me sorrowfully tear up. In 2011, Chicago posted 431 homicides against a population of 2.7 million, Detroit had 344 versus 713,239, Oakland had 104 homicides against 400,000 citizen, and Newark had 94 with a population of 278,000.
Right now I can see you looking at my blog posts thinking that none of this means anything other than that every race except Blacks stopped killing each other. Could be true, so I went back into the FBI database. There I discovered that there were 2447 Black on Black homicides nationwide in 2011, which was down from 2604 in 2009 and 55% from 1995. Surprisingly, I also found that White on White homicides similarly mirrored Blacks with 2630, 2963, and 4124 in the respective years; adding to this, since 2000 there have been more White intraracial homicides than Black.
What does all of this mean? Simply put, our perception of crime in America, especially when it comes to Black on Black homicide is not supported by reality. There could be several reasons why this has happened, but this might end up being equally as long; however, I will steal bite a line from Jay and say, “Men lie, women lie, numbers don’t.”
Quanstar is an American underground hip hop artist, indie filmmaker, comic creator, and self published author from Atlanta.