Kenneth L. Hardin: Black on Black crime is a farcical scare tactic

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 15, 2021

By Kenneth L. Hardin

Although I’m hair follicle challenged, I like visiting the barbershop. Mine is nestled in a sweet spot beside a Subway and within a rock’s throw to the golden arches.

Regardless of how long it’s been in between visits, I feel like the Norm character from the Cheers TV show when I walk through the door. I can hear the theme song each time, “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came. You want to be where you can see our troubles are all the same …” I’ll treat myself to a shave because my personal barber, Calvin, has magic hands that can make your face feel and look like new crisp money after he’s done. 

I actually go for the spirited conversation that always ensues. A couple of weeks ago, the intensity of the discussion with another barber reached almost peak level before the owner shut it down. The conversation started off calm enough with each of us taking different sides on the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine. I was speaking more from a science position, and he was questioning the validity, leaning more towards a religious deity being the final arbiter of healing. I explained to the barber that I didn’t hold the monopoly on the truth and respected his opinion, but questioned if he didn’t believe in the seriousness of the virus, why was he wearing a mask?

The conversation took a U-turn and went down a bumpy road when he asked me my thoughts on “Black on Black” crime.

A hush fell over the shop as other barbers and patrons alike gave us the floor. They politely allowed us to perform as if it was amateur night at the Apollo Theatre. The tone and intensity grew similar to that of a piano concerto where other instruments join in to bring it to a fever pitched crescendo. He interrupted me, I interrupted him, and neither of us actually got our points across, but I thoroughly enjoyed the verbal sparring session. In my opinion, he was ill-suited to verbally joust with me because I was prepared to come hard with a mountain of facts and statistics from previous similar ridiculous conversations I’ve had on this pointless discussion topic. I never take these conversations seriously because I typically find no joy in engaging in verbal battles where it’s akin to smashing a mosquito with a sledgehammer. I’m at a point in my life where I’ll readily defend against erroneous cultural slights. 

There’s no such thing as Black on Black crime. It’s nothing more than a media-inspired scare tactic to cast people of color as the boogeyman. If you talk about the statistical percentage of Black people killing other Black people, well you have to also talk about the percentage of whites who kill other whites, Asians who kill other Asians and Hispanics who kill other Hispanics at a similar rate. My question is why don’t you ever see those groups splashed across the TV news and newspapers at the alarming frequency like you do skinfolk? It’s a purposeful strategy.  You have to have someone to fear and hate to sell your message to the mainstream, and nothing sells better than to paint people of color as out of control animals running through their own neighborhoods killing each other. Murders are committed based on opportunity and proximity. You kill where you are and who is readily available to you.  

The patented go-to ridiculous response is, “Well in Chicago… .”

I read a paragraph from the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics that showed poor urban whites had a higher rate of violence towards each other at a rate of 56.4 per 1,000 compared to poor urban Blacks at a rate of 51.3 per 1,000. If we’re so quick to assign a color to murder and mayhem, why aren’t all the mass murders and school shootings considered “white on white” crime? Instead, they’re portrayed in the media as a national tragedy and not specific to an ethnic group. Why don’t we look at crime as a whole and not in a vacuum? 

We need to stop pointing the finger at one group when there are problems in every ethnic group. Why not try to understand and address things that may be contributors to the epidemic such as irresponsible gun ownership, easy access to weapons, inconsistent background checks, poverty, joblessness, lack of resources offered to marginalized communities, redlined neighborhoods, educational barriers and past and current trauma.

Just like in the barbershop, if you come at me with silliness like mentioning the term Black on Black crime, you’ll get a lot of static in return.

Kenneth L. Hardin is a writer living in Salisbury, a former City Council member and is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists.