Justice

Myth Behind This Anti-Black Lives Matter Meme

July 18th 2016

By:
Kyle Jaeger

In an attempt to dismiss complaints about racial injustice in America, some who stand ideologically opposed to the Black Lives Matter movement are once again sharing memes that compare rates of violent crime committed by whites against blacks and vice versa. For a number of reasons, these memes are miss the mark.

Let's take this one for example. The statistics included in this meme come from the Department of Justice's 2010 National Crime Victimization Survey.

meme

Here are three reasons this meme misses the point.

1. The meme conflates violent crime with racism.

hate crime

Yes, the numbers are accurate. (Though they offer a limited sample of statistics from the survey.) But if the intention of the meme is to undermine arguments about the prevalence of racism in the U.S., using "violent crime" data isn't the best approach because the survey doesn't account for motive. If you look at hate crime data, however, you'll find black people are disproportionately targeted. In 2013, 66.4 percent of racially motivated hate crimes were the product of anti-black bias and 21.4 percent were attributed to anti-white violence according to the FBI.

2. It doesn't account for population differences.

demographics

If you consider the fact that white Americans account for 72 percent of the total population while black Americans account for a little over 12 percent, then the violent crime gap makes more sense. One reason that there are more white victims of violent crime committed by black Americans because, well, there are more white Americans. A 2008 report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that white people commit crimes against black people at about the same rate (15.9 percent) that black people commit crimes against white people (15.4 percent.)

3. There are socioeconomic factors in play that the meme ignores.

poverty

The problem with citing statistics about white-on-black and black-on-white crime as evidence of a racial double standard is that it fails to recognize the systemic factors such as poverty and incarceration rates that have left black people in America at a demonstrable socioeconomic disadvantage — factors that are known to drive crime rates. Not only are black people nearly four times as likely to grow up in poverty (which is linked to a higher rate of crime later in life) as white people, they're also more likely to be arrested and incarcerated for violent and non-violent crimes, according to the NAACP. Black people are incarcerated at six times the rate that white people are incarcerated, for example.

incarceration

The overrepresentation of black people in the criminal justice system should not be overlooked, as this trend feeds directly into a cycle of crime that contributes to misleading statistics such as those represented in this meme.

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