By their very nature, false dichotomies tend to be simplistic and reductionist. Further, they generally lead to highly flawed, inaccurate conclusions. Indeed, the “conclusion” is often pre-determined — a fact that many who employ this tactic try to hide by formulating the comparison after the fact. In legal circles, this is referred to as ex post facto (i.e. previously legal activities that are intentionally made illegal for the purpose of entrapping people).
One of the most vexing examples of a false dichotomy is the notion that African Americans are disproportionately concerned about the “small number” of cases of police brutality, but care comparatively little about the “epidemic” of Black-on-Black crime (especially homicides). This trope is often perpetuated by people on the far right who generally do not care about the victims of such crime. These people argue that social media companies and the so-called MSM (i.e. “mainstream media”) are complicit in Black folks’ allegedly false outrage. (Think of Rush Limbaugh, Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham and their ilk.) They also ignore the fact that white-on-white crime is statistically on par with Black-on-Black crime. (Black people have not cornered the market on pathology; close proximity to people of the same race — due to de facto segregation — is the determining factor regarding intra-racial crime.)
Moreover, no one would ever suggest that people cannot care about breast cancer and lung cancer. Likewise, no one would never suggest that one cannot be concerned about heart disease and kidney disease. Yet, this is precisely what African Americans are repeatedly accused of vis-à-vis police brutality and Black-on-Black crime. (Tragically, it is not very uncommon for uninformed or self-hating African Americans to make the same argument.)
The good news is that the facts do not support this view; the bad news is that facts are becoming an endangered species in today’s Orwellian political and social discourse. People who make this argument are either disingenuous or blissfully unaware that African Americans engage in myriad interventions regarding the antecedents of crime — poverty, subpar education, physical and emotional trauma, racism, difficult home environments, mental illness, etc. We stage rallies and marches. We prepare curricula and devise extracurricular activities. We engage nonprofit organizations that foster de-escalation techniques, such as the Peace Learning Center. Our fraternities and sororities conduct workshops and conferences. We seek counseling for ourselves and our children. On any given Sunday, at any given Black church, pastors offer blistering exhortations about “lost souls” who prey on the innocent. The list goes on and on. In short, it is an abject lie that Black folks do not take seriously the slow-motion, self-inflicted genocide that plagues our communities. Our spirits are pummeled daily by the existential crisis of nihilism and self-abnegation. The people who argue otherwise do not know us and do not care about us.
The notion that African Americans don’t care as much about Black-on-Black crime as we do about police brutality is, in a word, racist. I will say that no one holds white people to the same standard. I have yet to hear about a white person who is alleged to be too myopic to care about illegal immigration and gun rights. Multi-caring is as natural and common as multi-tasking, yet Black folk are often considered to be uniquely unable to walk and chew gum concurrently.
This is also part and parcel of the false narrative regarding the Black Lives Matter movement. Many people believe that asserting that “Black lives matter” somehow is tantamount to saying that Black lives are the “only” ones that matter. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. We need to understand that this technique is a weapon of mass distraction. In the words of Childish Gambino (aka, Donald Glover), “stay woke!”
Finally, two key reasons fuel the intensity of the backlash against police brutality. The first is that technology gives visual confirmation of the kind of treatment that Black folks have endured since police forces were formed following the abolition of slavery. (Marvin Gaye famously sang about “trigger happy policing.”) The second reason is that we generally have the face(s), and often the name(s), of officers at whom we can direct our anger. By contrast, when we hear about multiple Black-on-Black shootings during tense weekends in Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Detroit or Chicago, we are dazed by the sheer volume of victims — and (usually) unidentified perpetrators. Notably, we do direct our ire toward Black perpetrators when we know who they are. So, let us put this outrageous notion to bed once and for all. Black lives matter, no matter who devalues them.
Larry Smith is a community leader. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.