by Amelia Mya Alleyne
During the pandemic, we’ve all born witness to a modern-day civil rights movement. The ongoing battle to amend the systems that have oppressed minority ethnic groups, and particularly the black community, has been tedious and, for many, extremely distressing. For many members of the black community in particular, the stereotypes associated with the black community, alongside the general and consistent misconduct towards us by those meant to protect us, has been traumatising to say the least.
Despite how emotionally negative this has been, there has appeared to be a silver lining in that the protests in support of black lives have sped up the justice system’s response to crimes committed against the community, and has allowed for many discussions and actions to take place in order to repair a broken system. However, many people are not on board with the idea that there is a flawed system, claiming that there are other matters at hand, an often-used example being that the black community exhibits violence onto each other – using the term “black-on-black crime” when justifying the racism and mistreatment given to our community.
This has been an on-going, tired narrative that has been forced on our community and I’m beginning to find the term extremely problematic for many reasons. For one, the belief that the black community is its own worst enemy has been endorsed by those in the greatest positions of power, which is extremely harmful to the black community in the lack of justice we receive and the global perspective of our community. In his candidacy, Trump made a statement online claiming 97% of black people are killed by other black people, and that 80% of white people were killed by black people; these stats were shut down by fact checkers almost immediately. When questioned about what plans are being created in order to reform the police system, so-called “black on black crime” has been the scapegoat used to avoid an actual answer from many government officials and political candidates.
The spreading of false information regarding the black community has been detrimental to our community’s progress as a whole, with members within our community often siding with those who created this oppressive view, meaning that the ability to demolish this term has become increasingly difficult. In essence, the term was coined as a way to depict rampant acts of crime within urban communities. But I’m more interested in the why, as opposed to casting labels and judgement: my answer is white supremacy. Post-colonialism forced black people and other minority ethnic communities to be tolerated by white people, as we gradually integrated into society as free people. However, the oppressive nature of many white people at the time did not end in slavery, thus meaning through their wealth and connections with those in law enforcement and the property market, we were forced into low-income, non-gentrified or done up, poverty-stricken housing communities. And, inevitably, the lack of job opportunities meant people had to find alternative, and often illegal, sources of income. It’s no secret that many people within the black community have been able to elevate themselves from low-income areas, living a middle to upper-class lifestyle. But we are still disproportionately suffering in these areas and that’s due to a neglectful and racist system. Essentially, crimes against our own have been a result of white supremacy, but that still doesn’t justify the use of the term – particularly when it’s not used amongst or against other groups to describe crime against themselves.
In the end, crime is just crime. Crime has no race, religion or class. The reason why crime exists in low- income areas is fundamentally down to white supremacy and the lack of redistribution of wealth to these areas, hence the need to commit crimes in order to survive. Instead of passing judgement and creating labels that follow our community around like a bad smell, we need to be accountable and assess the root cause, which is a system that was deliberately set up so that communities such as the black one wouldn’t succeed, and thus would be forced into a life of illegality.
Amelia Nya Alleyne is a final year English Literature student at the University of Surrey.