Opinion: Invoking black on black crime is dog-whistle racism, says Potsdam resident
To the Editor:
Readers of the “Letters to the Editor” section of this paper encounter with tiresome regularity, attacks on the Black Lives Matter movement. Often, such letters are badly written in substance and style. They are also filled to the brim with dog-whistle racism.One particularly noxious example of such racism is the endlessly recycled trope of “Black-on-Black-crime,” usually given without any reference to socio-economic and historical context, let alone analysis. Scrutinizing such context would be rather inconvenient to apologists for the racist status quo, as Trump’s recent diatribes against any serious, critical, and non-propagandistic approaches to US history illustrate. What Trump’s devotees desire is a simplistic and cartoonish, highly distorted and sanitized, Mickey Mouse fantasy of American history, not the real thing.
American culture and society are based on, and have been shaped by, Settler State Colonialism (dispossessing, displacing, and murdering indigenous peoples) and Slavery (kidnapping, enslaving, exploiting, and murdering people from Africa). The slave economy of the south had been integrated with the economic system of US capitalism as a whole and provided the foundation for American prosperity. Even after the formal end of slavery in the south, slavery continued in everything but name in the United States.
Whether via the Jim Crow system of legal apartheid or the elaborate web of formal and informal discrimination against Black people in the rest of the country – African-Americans were deliberately and systematically put at a structural disadvantage in virtually every sphere of life, ranging from access to housing and food to jobs, wealth creation, education, and social mobility.
Even before the massive expansion of the prison system in the 1990s, Blacks were criminalized for everyday activities and disproportionately incarcerated. In prison, they would often be pressed into forced labor and contracted out to white business owners.
The data on socio-economic circumstances for African-Americans speaks for itself. In 2018, the percentage of whites living under the poverty line was 8.1% while it was at least 20.8% for Blacks. For Black children under the age of 18, the numbers are even more heart-breaking, as about 32% were found to be below or significantly below the poverty line. All of this is the result of decades of defunding of vitally important social and community programs, as well as a socio-economic and political system based on White Supremacy and predatory exploitation.
Invoking the loaded trope of “Black-on-Black crime” without referencing this context is quite simply nauseating.
SUNY Potsdam professor