Conservative blogs, webs, newspapers, and pundits are at it again screaming that young black males are killing each other with abandon in city after city. They repeatedly toss out the supposedly raging murder violence in Baltimore, Chicago and now New York City as proof that black on black carnage has mounted to national epidemic levels. It makes no difference that murder rates have drastically plunged in most big cities over the past two decades. And that Chicago and Baltimore are glaring aberrations to the consistent steady national decline in murders.
Their real punch line is this: Let a white cop gun down a young black, and civil rights leaders storm the protest barricades demanding arrests, prosecutions and throw the book at em' jail sentences for the man or woman with a badge accused of the slaying. This is an idiotic charge. It deliberately ignores the fact that civil rights leaders and organizations have staged countless marches, rallies and walks against murder violence in black neighborhoods. They have lobbied hard for tougher gun laws and enforcement and have lobbied business leaders and elected officials to radically boost spending on education, job training, drug counseling and diversion programs for young blacks, and for greater support programs for needy families.
No matter, conservatives take giddy delight in constantly screeching that the cause of all the black violence is the absence of all those fathers from the homes. This myth has been debunked in so many ways that it's almost ludicrous to have to repeatedly try to refute it. However, the Center for Disease Control did. In May, it released the results of one of the most comprehensive studies of parental involvement with children -- by race. It found in every child age category, from age 5 to 18, black fathers, whether in the home or not, not only were just as engaged with their children as white or Hispanic dads, but in some activities such as reading to them, helping with homework, and having daily discussions with them, they were more likely to be engaged with their children than white or Hispanic fathers.
You can cite these facts all day, and it won't mean much. In fact, they have been repeatedly cited ever since Daniel Patrick Moynihan's thoroughly refuted study a half century ago blamed the absent black family for every ill that ever plagued blacks. We can see decades later the same tired line is still repeatedly trotted out to slam civil rights leaders and organizations for their alleged see no evil, hear no evil hypocrisy when it comes to black on black murders.
The blame the victim blinders on this aren't tied tight out of ignorance or misinformation but out of a cold, calculated and cynical agenda. This ploy has been the perfect rationale for the wild spending on and expansion of jails, and prisons. It spurred a massive ramp up in spending on more police, judges, and probation and parole officers. It cowered state and federal lawmakers into trying to outdo each other in shouting the loudest about getting tough on crime and torpedoing every sane and sensible initiative on crime reduction from expanded treatment to job and skills training programs. This also included the scrapping or radical overhaul of the blatantly race tinged drug sentencing, three strikes laws, and the harsh sentences for non-violent offenders.
The prime reason that lawmakers, particularly GOP lawmakers, have finally made some glacial movement toward pushing for a so-called "smart" approach to crime prevention is because of the skyrocketing and increasingly prohibitive cost of locking up tens of thousands of petty drug and non-violent offenders for years, if not decades. But even this movement toward more humane and cost effective measures for dealing with crime is fragile to say the least. It still turns on public perceptions about crime, especially black crime. This tracks directly back to how the media plays up, or rather sensationalizes, violent crime. When that happens, it simply deepens public belief and fears, that inner city neighborhoods are lawless, violent, out of control, killing zones, that must be dealt with as if they were ISIS controlled rebel territory. Notions of smart policing will always give way to draconian policing and sentencing, and perpetual crime fear and hysteria.
This ploy has always had a hard political agenda behind it. Nowhere is this more glaringly evident than in New York City. The target there is a conservative's favorite whipping boy, outside of Hillary Clinton, and that's New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. He gets the blame from New York police unions every time an NYPD officer is killed or assaulted for allegedly mollycoddling anti-police violence protestors. Now he's getting it for allegedly falling asleep at the wheel on the uptick in the city's murders. While the issues of terrorism and security have largely replaced the old-fashioned pander to law and order on the campaign trail in past few presidential elections, it still lurks just beneath the surface of national politics. It only takes one well-placed and prolonged panic story on the alleged new murder wave in America to reignite it as the issue of national concern again. The black on black murder myth will always be the prime candidate for doing just that.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the author of the forthcoming book From King to Obama: Witness to a Turbulent History (Middle Passage Press).
He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is host of the weekly Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour heard weekly on the nationally network broadcast Hutchinson Newsmaker Network.