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How to respond to “but look at all the Black on Black murders in Chicago!”

These are the facts you need to present to your racist friends and family members who only care about Chicago when it’s time to trample over the validity of Black Lives Matter. Memorize them and keep them in your pocket because this particular myth about race and crime is one we can easily do away with.

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Every racist’s favorite word is Chicago. I’m serious. Even moreso than the n-word, because — even though they do love to say it — a lot of them aren’t completely stupid and they know if they say it in front of the wrong person they may in fact get popped in the mouth. Nobody is throwing a punch over “but Chicago!”

(But they might soon, and I would love to see it.)

Part of the reason Black people don’t get as upset at “but Chicago!” is…we kind of agree, amongst ourselves, in our own community, AWAY from the white eyeballs who are reading this post right now. I would feel like a traitor saying that all out loud, but this is about to get good y’all. Stay with me here.

Michael Harriot (@michaelharriot) just blessed me with a pile of information that I never knew existed, never bothered to look for, and never even formed a concept around in my mind. I retweeted his thread on Twitter (so if you have Twitter, just go there and read it and retweet it), but I know a lot of my followers are social media averse and a Twitter thread isn’t most folks’ preferred method of receiving information. But I just want to be clear: all of the statistics and figures I’m about to drop down here were absolutely swiped from that thread. I just wanna give these numbers as much exposure as I can because I think it’s a very important understanding of the facts.

We’ll start with the factual information that makes this conversation uncomfortable to have in mixed company: Black people make up 13% of the population and commit 50% of the murders.

Even starting at that “fact” you should keep in mind: 1) that statistic is for arrests for murder and 2) when that information is presented, it comes across as though each murder is being committed by a different Black person, when in reality, criminals usually commit many crimes.

But Michael has decided to give White America and the justice system those two points, that every Black person arrested for murder actually killed someone AND every murder victim was killed by a different Black person. That is a lot of Black murderers Michael is prepared to offer up for this discussion, and we appreciate that because it gives white deflectors nowhere to go later. Now take these two charts together, murders vs population breakdown.

Honestly, he could’ve stopped right there and it was enough to sit me down, shamefully, and examine why I thought the percentage would be much higher. The way crime in context with race is framed in this country, we all — not just white people — grow up thinking Black criminals are a blight upon the land. From Hollywood to the local news, most of the violent criminals we see on television are Black. Most of the good guys (and not good in a specifically Law vs Crime sense, but just main characters in a romantic comedy or drama or 30 minute sitcom) are white. From the time we’re born, we’re brought up on a steady diet of visual media where there is a spectrum of white people presented to us alongside a much more narrow view of Black people. It seeps into your psyche without thinking, and most of us, regardless of color, are laboring under the impression that a much higher percentage of Black people are criminals than the percentage of white people.

It’s BASICALLY THE SAME. And part of the reason we have that impression is due to the overreporting of crime on television. Crime is down. It keeps going down. You were more likely to be abducted and murdered in 1960 than you are now, but all the movies set decades ago show kids riding their bikes all day and traipsing through the woods without a care in the world. Today, we have busybody parents calling the cops on single mothers who leave their kid in the food court (within eyesight) while they have a job interview at the mall so they can provide for their child.

(That really happened.)

Anyway, back to the facts.

Now that we got that outta the way, those facts may not completely shut down the conversation. When white people seek to discredit Black Lives Matter, they use “but Chicago!” as a way to say “Black people kill each other way more than cops do, so why don’t you talk about that huh!?”

First of all, crime itself is largely INTRAracial, meaning most victims of a crime are the same race as the criminal. 89% of Black murder victims are killed by Black murderers, and 81% of white murder victims are killed by white murderers. (x) So that’s a wash, and there’s your answer to that part of the argument.

As far as discussing it, We The Black Community absolutely discuss crime in our community, far more than white people do, even though, as we saw earlier, we have the same percentage of murderers in our ranks. We’re always talking about it and part of the reason is we have the same perception you do, that the Black murder rate is a much bigger problem than it really is. The media has told us that Black on Black crime is out of control and the news keeps interviewing white people who wonder why we never talk about it. White people don’t hear about it because we don’t need to have our inside conversations outside. There are a lot of things I talk about with Black people that I don’t talk about with white people, and that’s just on a small interpersonal scale. I have a whole Black Men’s Brunch I started because we like to have conversations away from y’all.

Pause for a bomb photo op, because the sun was blessing us on this day in particular:

Also, none of the men in this picture are murderers. And we are smiling. Look! Smiling Joyful Black Men on your screen! What a moment, right?

So there we have it y’all. Those are the facts you need to present to your racist friends and family members who only care about Chicago when it’s time to trample over the validity of Black Lives Matter. Memorize them and keep them in your pocket because this particular myth about race and crime is one we can easily do away with.

Numbers don’t lie. It’s all in the perception of those numbers. Change the viewpoint.

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Race

Seneca Village, Black displacement, and the history of Central Park.

Let’s have a look at the first free Black settlement in NYC.

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Some tweets about Central Park have been going viral the past two days and they are missing valuable context and clarity. Yesterday, I saw this one:

Black people owned less than 1% of the land that would eventually become Central Park.

Seneca Village was about 5 acres of land. Central Park is almost 850 acres of land. So no, the area was not called Seneca Village. There were lots of little villages with their own names dotted throughout the area.

A third of the people in Seneca Village were white. In fact, most of the people in Central Park were white — they were Irish and German farmers.

The United States is a terrible country founded upon theft, greed, and subjugation. All of this land was stolen from Native Americans in the first place, so this is not an effort to impart any warm and fuzzy feelings about US history. Hyperbole is the enemy of truth, and exaggeration in one area of history serves to undermine facts in another. We live in a country where textbooks speak of slavery as a valid business model with a few mean employers. Because of that, when we are trying to force the reality of the horrors of slavery and racism into the American narrative, we can’t afford to embellish other injustices.

When you say Black families had their homesteads razed to make way for Central Park, the average person will picture roving bands of white people setting fires and violently chasing Black people with dogs and weapons. It happened all over the country throughout our history. Countless Black communities are forgotten today because the history of white America is written in Black suffering.

The location of Central Park wasn’t a decision made with race at the forefront. Seneca Village was indeed the first free Black settlement in NYC after slavery was outlawed. Free Black men could vote if they owned enough property, and around 15-20% of those property-owning men lived in Seneca Village. The city did take control of that property through eminent domain to make way for Central Park. All of these things are true.

These things are also true: At its peak the population of Seneca Village was less than 300 people and a third of those people were white. The total population of the area now known as Central Park was almost 2,000 people, and the majority of them were Irish and German farmers. The city used eminent domain to take all of their lands, but that doesn’t mean the lands were stolen from them. All of the residents who owned their property were paid for it — double or triple what the original selling price was — but they couldn’t say no to the sale. The city forced them to sell and move elsewhere. Aside from that though, most of the population of NYC lived below 14th Street, which meant much of the rest of Manhattan was semi-rural and people farmed land all over the island that they didn’t own. When the city decided to build Central Park, they forced the squatters to start paying rent to the city, and when they couldn’t pay, they were kicked out.

The image being painted on Twitter is that Central Park was full of communities of prosperous, land-owning freedmen who lost their voting rights when NYC decided to build a park where the Black people live. And that’s a fair assumption! NYC is full of racist building projects, and US history is full of racist legacies where successful Black towns were essentially punished or destroyed for simply thriving. That’s not quite the case for Central Park. Most of the displaced people were white. Most of the residents of Seneca Village were poor and 80% of them didn’t own the homes they lived in. Those who owned property, which in turn meant they could vote, were paid more than they’d originally invested.  They could use that money buy property elsewhere, which meant they could still vote.

But! This is still the United States. While racism may not be the central figure in the creation of Central Park as it was in other tales of yesteryear, it’s still there as a supporting character.

When NYC wanted a park, the original location chosen was a place called Jones’s Wood. The prosperous white families in that area successfully fought the city, so a new location was scouted and the city settled on the area now known as Central Park. Seneca Village was a very, very tiny portion of the land area and the Black residents there were a small percentage of the mostly white population that would be displaced, but there were very prominent Black families in Seneca Village. The majority of the residents were indeed poor farmers, laborers, and domestic workers who didn’t own land, but the people who did own land were important to the Black community in NYC at large.

The Lyons Family in Seneca Village were conductors on the Underground Railroad.

All Angels church was one of the few interracial congregations in the country. When riots broke out in Lower Manhattan as white racists attacked Black abolitionists, Seneca Village much farther north was spared any damage. As a result, this much more rural area attracted other prominent Black activists, and by the time Central Park was planned, 20% of the Black voters in the city lived there. The residents of Seneca Village put up a fight against the city just as the residents of Jones’s Wood had, but where those prosperous white families ultimately prevailed, the prosperous Black ones did not, and the city moved forward with its plans.

The two biggest takeaways from the creation of Central Park and the history of Seneca Village is the lack of violence and the displacement of white people. Those two factors counter the image most of us have when we hear the city took land from Black people to make a park. There are no stories of Black displacement where most of the people affected were white, and there are few stories of Black displacement from the 19th Century where the government engaged in protracted legal battles with the residents and ultimately paid property owners for their land.  Seneca Village should be remembered as the first free Black settlement in NYC, but we don’t have to paint it as another Tulsa to drive home the history of racism in the US. There are enough Tulsas to go around.

 

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Some sources if you want to read in more detail:
NY Times: Seneca Central Park
Columbia University: Seneca Village
CentralParkNYC.org: Seneca Village
Documents of the Assembly of the State of NY 

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Race

Leave slavery out of your abortion conversations.

Why do seemingly well-meaning white people like to compare various struggles to slavery

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Another day, another White Liberal unnecessarily using slavery to make a point.

(Twitter)

Joyce Alene is a professor at the University of Alabama School of Law. She has appeared as a legal analyst on various cable news channels and she was an attorney for the Obama administration. And she thought it was a good idea to compare abortion rights to slavery.

Not sure why this repeatedly has to be explained over and over, but it is very much possible to discuss persecution without bringing Black people into it. There is never a need to compare any struggle in this country to the worst atrocity in the history of the United States, and doing so makes you look unserious. What we are dealing with right now in regard to reproductive rights can be discussed on its own merit. We should be horrified by what’s happening, period. No hyperbole is necessary. No conflation with genocide is needed.

Why do seemingly well-meaning white people like to compare various struggles to slavery, when absolutely nothing the Modern White American faces has any similarity? Nothing the Colonial White American faced had any similarity. Leave slavery out of the conversation.

It’s a double insult. On the first side, Good Whites can’t come to grips with the foundation of America’s success in the world firmly resting atop slavery, so comparisons to modern struggles are subconsciously made to lessen the severity of what happened. Even the most liberal of White Americans has a difficult time accepting the fact that everything you see owes it existence to slavery. There would be no United States without the economic engine that was chattel slavery. From Yale to Bank of America to whiskey — the legacy of slavery is everywhere.

On the other side, too many Good Whites feel such a strong need to identify with the oppressed that they will manufacture similarities that don’t exist.

Or possibly a third side:

If you acknowledge that it’s a bad take and you don’t mean any offense, then you only said it to be shocking and to grab attention. You have trivialized slavery as a gotcha for clicks, and that’s even worse.

Women are being oppressed. Yes, restrictive legislation on reproductive rights disproportionately affects poor women and women of color, but all women are at the mercy of an evangelical government that believes it has the divine right to subjugate Eve’s daughters. That is enough to work with. Comparing it to anything other than that is a distraction and a disservice. Women deserve rights on their own merit.

 

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Race

We gotta invite Tigger to the Cookout now.

Maybe it sounds so much like n—-r some people just lose their minds.

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Some cartoon characters are Black because they’re created that way.

Some cartoon characters Black because we decided they are.

And some cartoon characters are just cartoon characters. I don’t recognize any Winnie the Pooh characters from my daily life, so they’re just animals to me, but we might have to welcome Tigger into the family. There’s no other explanation for why this white lady is so mad that he’s on a flag.

Tigger must’ve played rap music in her driveway or looked at her purse on the elevator or something, because this lady is acting like that flag says Black Lives Matter And Yours Does Not. I am very certain there are no rules (by this non-existent housing association) prohibiting a cartoon character flag and this woman feels like “rule” is the same as “I don’t like it,” which is unsurprising given the age and hue of the protagonist in this short film. My first retail job was at Bath & Body Works in a Southern shopping mall, and if there’s one thing I know for certain about that particular demographic it’s that they definitely believe personal opinions are facts, feelings are rules, and there is a manager of something somewhere who will side with them so they can get their way.

Bless the restraint of this homeowner. I probably woulda cussed that woman from here to Tara and then I would be gone with the police after she called 911 on me.

 

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