There is a dominant narrative among white America that the young black men in the country are disproportionately and excessively violent in their behavior and do not fit well into the wider society. This myth of black crime has been used by Alt-right figures and white Supremacists for decades to oppose any systemic efforts as overcoming poverty and underdevelopment in minority communities.
However, new data now increasingly shows that the assumptions underlying this narrative might not hold to scrutiny if the official statistics are carefully analyzed for racial biases.
Discrimination against black people in the criminal justice system is an undeniable fact that has been known to researchers for decades. This long-lasting system is a direct legacy of the Jim Crow system, and was, in fact, created by Nixon associates immediately after the success of the Civil Rights Movement, with the explicit intent to punish African Americans for enjoying their newfound freedom.
In an excellent piece summarizing the best data available on criminal law enforcement by race to date, CNN contributor Van Jones points out how the legacy of this historic policy still lives out in systems of oppression to this day. Compared both to their total numbers and the proportion of criminal offence, African Americans are disproportionately more likely to be arrested and convicted of unlawful behavior than their White counterparts in almost all categories of violent and property crime, by a long shot.
To quote just one example, young African Americans carry weapons at slightly lower rates than white Americans, but are arrested for weapons offences at more than double the rate of the latter.
A latest report released last month by the National Registry of Exonerations offers a case in point. On the basis of over three decades worth of data, the report reveals many shocking facts about just how many innocent black Americans have their lives ruined because of racial bias in law enforcement and the criminal justice system. It shows that African Americans are almost seven times as likely as white Americans to be falsely convicted of serious crimes.
Innocent black murder suspects, who spent over 16 years in prison on average before being exonerated, were also found to be 50% more likely to be there due to police misconduct, and this does not even include the racial bias they face in the courts after they have been falsely charged. In other words, America is throwing away the entire youths of thousands of black Americans because of the enduring myth of black crime.
To make matters worse, the mainstream media continues to contribute to the problem to this day. The myth of ‘Black on Black crime’ is a prominent example, because it ignores the fact all crime in the U.S. is overwhelmingly intra-racial and ends up supporting the narrative of innate black criminality. While the labelling of black protestors as ‘looters’ and criminals was most visible during the Black Lives Matter movement of 2020, it has always been a problem in American popular culture and extends to other domains and other races as well.
Interestingly, there is correspondingly a deafening silence in the media when it comes to corporate crime, which is overwhelmingly (in fact, almost completely) committed and supervised by white perpetrators. All in all, it is highly probable that this media portrayal plays an important role in legitimizing and perpetuating this deadly system.