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Black-on-Black Crime: Unpacking the myth

Written by the Dávila Kafe Team

Recognizing the Myth:

When was the last time you heard the phrase “white-on-white crime?” Can you recall? Probably not because the notion doesn’t exist in our American lexicon, although 2016 statistical data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that 83.5% of white homicide victims were killed by other white Americans. Research has shown that intraracial violence is common in all ethnic groups at similar rates. Why then does the notion of “Black-on-Black crime” continue to persist in our public discourse? Why not focus on the root causes of intraracial violence instead of racializing crime?


Reason 1:

It intentionally steers clear of a comprehensive analysis of crime in Black and working class communities.

Fact: Crime is directly linked to poverty, proximity, and opportunity, not ethnicity or race.


Reason 2:

It further propagates the erroneous belief that the physical survival and well-being of the Black community in America is threatened by Black people killing or stealing from other Black people (“threats from within”) over external or systemic forces (“exterior threats”).


Reason 3:

It is racist and indicates an unwitting internalization of one of America’s most cherished characterizations of Black people as “naturally violent,” even when articulated by Black intellectuals, politicians, and thought leaders.


Reason 4:

White supremacists use it as a tool to undermine Black narratives, such as Black Lives Matter, which aim to highlight the staggering rates of police brutality and systemic racism experienced by Black men, women, and children.



  • Black Americans are nearly three times more likely to die while in police custody than white Americans.

  • In 2019, 24% of all police killings were of Black Americans when just 13% of the U.S. population is Black – an 11-point discrepancy.

  • D.C., with a nearly 50% Black population, reports that 88% of all police killings are against Black Washingtonians – a discrepancy of over 38 percentage points.

  • Ninety-nine percent of all officers involved in police killings had no criminal charges pressed against them in 2019.

“Black-on-Black crime” has been part of the American lexicon for decades, but as a specific phenomenon, it’s no more real than “white-on-white crime.” Unlike the latter, however, the idea of “Black-on-Black crime” taps into specific fears around Black masculinity and Black criminality—the same fears that, in Florida, led George Zimmerman to focus his attention on Trayvon Martin.” - Jamelle Bouie


Bureau of Justice Statistics. Department of Justice. 2016. Homicide Trends in the U.S.

Headley, B. (1983). "Black on Black" Crime: The Myth and the Reality. Crime and Social Justice, (20), 50-62. Retrieved July 8, 2020, from

Roper, W., & Richter, F. (2020, June 02). Infographic: Black Americans 2.5X More Likely Than Whites to Be Killed By Police. Statista Infographics. Retrieved July 8, 2020, from

Mock, B. (2015, June 11). Examining the Origins of the Phrase 'Black-on-Black Crime'. Retrieved July 08, 2020, from

Bouie, J. (2013, July 15). The Trayvon Martin Killing and the Myth of Black-on-Black Crime. Retrieved July 08, 2020, from


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