[content warning: descriptive patriarchal violence, sexual assault, misogynoir, racism]
Yesterday evening after getting back from a much needed manicure and hand massage, I passed by some locations that are burned into my mind. You see, in the past four months I have been a block away from 3 shootings. None of those people survived. All Black men died. I noticed that my body tensed up and I had shortness of breath when I passed by those locations; I felt my anxiety rising. And all of the locations are within several miles of where I live.
Though I know the danger of thinking within a framework shaped by fictive kinship can mean that Black people can end up being abusive to other Black people by enforcing the politics of respectability out of fear of “collective judgment” in the White Gaze, at the same time there are times when that fictive kinship is…a burden still…but not in a completely bad way. In a humanizing way. Because these shootings are not “distant” crimes on television to me. They never are.
Black people struggling in poverty and pain, living under the weight of the boot of racism on our necks, and Black men struggling with an almost invisible space to articulate their masculinity—where if it is not patriarchal they are judged but if it is patriarchal the punishment can be anything up to death—is not ever going to be an easy thing to live with. How would it be? I don’t want them to die. At the same time, I don’t want Black women or other Black people to be their prime receptacle for that pain because it’s easier to kick down than up.
And again, these shootings are not distant for me, not sociopolitically…or in actual physical space. The first one? I heard it though I did not see it. I saw the young Black man run into the store after being shot in the parking lot. He fell to the floor. He just moaned in pain, his body curled in the fetal position. He didn’t shed a tear though. Not a single one. I don’t think tears could adequately express what he was experiencing; pain far beyond. The light started to fade from his eyes. He was still breathing when the cops got us out of the store. I learned that he died later on that night. I was not okay that day. I am not okay now.
The second two shootings were a couple of months after the aforementioned. A young guy was murdered so close to where I was that I could hear the police’s conversations. My little brother (I call him “little” but he’s 28; he’ll always be my little brother; I am 34) knew him. They were not close friends but they hung out a few times. Several of my little brother’s friends are deceased now. Again, he’s only 28. I think about the fact that some of his friends have been harmed or are dead. I think about how so many of the Black women that I know are sexual assault survivors, as am I, and a few of them have men in their families who’ve been domestically violent or have killed women. Black men experience violence and commit violence and that is the nature of racial oppression accompanied with male privilege in a racist and patriarchal society. The final shooting was of an older Black man. Turns out he is the husband of a friend of a friend. Again, I am not distant. This is acutely connected to my life. In the last four months alone, I have been a block away from someone Black being murdered and somehow been connected to the death. I feel tired and sad beyond belief. I’m experiencing PTSD symptoms because of Black men being harmed or killed; I experience PTSD symptoms when Black men harm me.
When I have to deal with from Whites the lack of compassion, lack of empathy, the notion that I cannot feel pain (Strong Black Woman) but also deserve pain (Angry Black Woman) and their intent to manipulate that accompanies White supremacy, when they dare fix their mouths full of hot air to suggest that Black people “do not care” about intraracial crime, the rage I feel is unspeakable. It’s so hot that it’s cold. It’s so loud that it’s silent. It’s past anything that words can be used to describe because none have been invented yet to accurately do so. Because ultimately these Whites suggest that the plagues of White supremacy, racism and anti-Blackness that create the situations that contribute to violence do not exist and that Black people—not Whites and their mass socially accepted lack of empathy core to White supremacy—are unfeeling and uncaring. Most of the time it is they who do not care…who feel nothing when Black people die by anyone’s hands. But it is me and it is other Black people who “don’t care” about intraracial violence? Projection much? I mean, Whites are willing to manipulate crime statistics, let White men almost unilaterally not be held accountable for rape, and even encourage White women to continue to promote the myth of the “scary Black man” out to get them versus the White ones that they know, the White ones who are statistically the greatest threat to any White person…all in the name of preserving White supremacy? Yeah.
I mean, the fact that I cannot even discuss any crime unless I include the same goddamn links over and over—about how intraracial crime is the most common for any race, “Black on Black” is a misnomer used to pathologize Black people when every race of people tend to commit crimes along similar racial and class lines (mainly because of homogeneity being more common among housing/marriages etc.), and that there’s clearly research that over and over proves that White people who harm Black people spend less time in jail/less likely convicted than White people who harm White people, than Black people who harm Black people and especially than Black people who harm White people—remains frustrating. These are easily quantifiable things. This is not a theory or a guess.
I truly find myself viscerally and intimately disgusted with White people whose empty little heads and unfeeling hearts cannot even fathom the toll that intraracial crime takes on my spirit and on other Black people’s spirits. When I see a funeral in relation to crime every weekend, that affects me. When I see Black men in wheelchairs from violence, it affects me, and not because physically disabled people need “pity” because this is not about “generic disabled” stories meant for Whites to co-opt here. It affects me because I know how close they were to death like so many others who didn’t make it. When I see the faces of dead Black children on t-shirts. RIP tattoos. Funeral programs strewn about empty lots where the ink and images have started to fade from exposure to the sun. The Black funeral homes that are community pillars and institutions for decades since for the longest time, White funeral homes wouldn’t touch a Black body. The songs. I’m not a theist but I bet I cry when I hear "soon and very soon, we are going to see the king." Why, because I’m still Black and know the history and stories and sheer weight that song and songs like it carry. When I hear over and over about the Black women who are street harassed, sexually assaulted, beaten and killed, I at times lose sleep. And all of the work—the marches, committees, after school programs, counseling, sister circles, men’s groups etc.—that goes into curtailing this violence is proof positive that Black people care.
Whites’ racism is what supports the notion that Black people “don’t care” about intraracial crime because we expect justice for interracial crime. How illogical and cruel. How disgusting a concept. How clueless and disconnected they are to think it. I feel this violence all over my body and it is like a boulder that I am dragging around, a boulder put there by the same people who now think they have the right to throw more boulders at me since the first one exists. The real issue where there is weakness on discussing intraracial crime is gendered crime, Black men’s abuse of Black women (a weakness across the board in every race, because of patriarchy). But Black women barely register in the White imagination. When the “‘doesn’t care’ about intraracial crime” crap starts, they mean crime between cishet Black men, the crime that Black people care about and react to more than anything else. The area where there is strength is demonized; the area where there is more apathy is ignored. But this is less about Black people not caring and more about Black people fearing the White Gaze on Black men (which is NOT a legitimate excuse for Black men’s silence on violence against Black women, but is a part of a complicated reason). And even when Black women experience similar violence as Black men (i.e. Renisha McBride), the roar from everyone, not just Black men, is much quieter.
To claim that I or any other Black person doesn’t care about intraracial crime—and sadly because of how White supremacy as oppression impacts Black people, some Black people have begun to spin this lie that Black people do not care about intraracial crime—is to claim that I don’t care about being alive. That I want to die. That I think Black life is as valueless as White supremacy makes it. This claim is a lie. And many Whites simply remain too clueless, too careless and too calloused to realize it. White supremacy is their default. That default is cruelty. That cruelty has to be interrogated and unlearned. Whites need to stop projecting the fact that they do not care about Black life on to Black people barely holding on to it because of White supremacy.