“The same hands that drew red lines around Prince Jones drew red lines around the ghetto.” – Ta-Nehisi Coates in Between the World and Me
On July 16th, 2016 the Black Lives Matter Atlantic City group hosted our monthly forum, this one focused on the issue of black on black (BOB) violence. The image of violence in our communities has been defined and reproduced in very deceptive, obscure and leading ways that perpetuate stereotypes of “inherent” violent characteristics of the black community. The group focused on the national Black Lives Matter stance on black on black (BOB) violence: Black intra-racial violence tactically diverts our attention from the fact that, while other intra-racial violence is similar, black communities disproportionately come into contact with the police in ways that could be potentially fatal. The group also discussed police violence, the relationship between crime, violence, and poverty, as well as read from Ta-Nehisi Coates’ best selling book Between the World and Me. This forum was facilitated by Dr. Christina Jackson, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Stockton University. The forum filled a crucial void for residents looking to talk about racial violence with one another in respectful ways. As the media attempts “dialogues and conversations” on racial violence that disintegrate into arguments, we are reminded of the importance of these monthly meetings.
As a group we watched and discussed a heated debate between former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Georgetown University Professor Michael Eric Dyson. Giuliani’s very conservative perspective is that Black on Black Crime is statistically higher than White on White Crime and happens more frequently than police violence, so police violence isn’t the issue since blacks are killing themselves more frequently. Police violence differs from BOB violence because police violence is protected by state sanctioned authority to assess risk and use weapons (Cooper 2016). Contrary to what Giuliani implied, because police have such power they should be trained and held at the highest standards possible (Cooper 2016).
In this country, most violence is intra-racial. According to the Justice Department via the Wall Street Journal, 94% of black victims are killed by black people and 86% of white victims are killed by white people. Black on Black homicides are statistically a few points higher then white on white homicides but this can be misleading as news outlets and conservative pundits portray this difference larger than it is. BOB homicides were lower then WOW homicides during the 1980s and in 1990 saw the statistic become higher then WOW violence. There are several factors that affect why BOB violence increased, including the 80s crack cocaine epidemic, concentrated drugs, and unemployment causing an increase in fetal death rates and the number of weapons arrests. Many of these factors debunk Guliani’s privileged, pathological argument, which perpetuates segregation, isolation and concentrated poverty and gives rise to a culture of violence.
We also explored the idea that crime and violence are a result of poverty. According to Keeanga-Yamahatta Taylor, black and brown communities are most vulnerable to poverty, putting them at risk to be targeted by the police who are trained to respond to the consequences of poverty and the lack of our welfare system to mitigate it (2016). One community member also brought up the permanence of untreated mental health in our communities and how that is also a factor that leads to increased violence and crime. As Coates says profoundly in Between the World and Me, when referring to the 2000 killing of 25-year-old Prince Jones by a police officer, “the same hands that drew red lines around Prince Jones drew red lines around the ghetto ” (111). This reminds our team of that the main objectives of our monthly Beyond the Slogan series is to connect the sudden deaths of black boys to the slow, systematic violence and devaluation of our communities.
Our next forum is on Portrayals of African Americans in the Media. Join us Saturday, August 20th from 2-4 at the Asbury United Methodist Community Development Center, 1213 Pacific Ave. in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
About the Author:
Dr. Christina Jackson is an urban sociologist, educator, researcher and community arts advocate. She has worked in academic,evaluation and the non-profit settings. Her teaching pedagogy and overall interests combine issues of race, class, gender, social justice, community work and experiential learning. She is currently Assistant Professor of Sociology at Stockton University in New Jersey.
About Black Lives Matter AC:
Black Lives Matter AC was organized by a coalition of community organizations in and around Atlantic City that meets monthly at Asbury United Methodist Church in Atlantic City to bring together people across lines of race, religion, age, gender, economic & educational levels, in order to learn and listen to one another. We honor the future through our youth, creating space for arts, culture, and local ministry to guide youth away from gangs and toward the arts. Various speakers present on topics, so we better understand the underlying systems of oppressions which people of color have inherited and which white Euro-Americans have often taken for granted. Since November, we have covered areas such as domestic violence, the prison industrial complex, housing, the current state takeover of Atlantic City, and more. We provide safe and facilitated space for people to begin listening to one another’s stories, to build trust, and to foster relationships that lead to organizing and building projects for change. Our goal is to create relationships where none existed, and then to allow the process of creativity and cooperation to flourish for good, so that the future of Atlantic City and Atlantic County is enhanced for as many people as possible, starting with our children. Our next forum is on Portrayal of Black in the Media, and is on August 20, 2016, 2-4PM.