Being Black…

Two hot topics in the media at the moment are so-called black-on-black crime, and black underachievement in schools.

I ask why the reference to ‘black-on-black’? Isn’t crime just crime? Why is the race of the victims or the perpetrators significant? Similarly if kids are underachieving in school, why the focus on their skin colour in the discussion?

I ask this question for the reason that on one hand, for example, we know that people of African and Caribbean descent have been and are disprotionately discriminated against – on the basis of their race – within Western society. It is now recognized that this type of discrimination is wrong because we know that race is nothing more than a social construct with no inherent meaning or value. Therefore to judge anyone on this basis is foolish.

But then why do we focus debates, conversations, or reports on these grounds too? If we know that any concepts of race are, in essence, meaningless why couch educational underachievement, crime or anything else in references to being black?

What is being ‘black’ anyway? How is it defined? Who defines it? ‘Black’ does not really exist apart from in our minds, yet the term is used – including by the government in their recent report – as if it’s an actual tangible aspect of a person (or a group of people) rather than a construction which is undoubtedly useless – which is, ironically, precisely the reason why prejudice and racism exists in the first place.

Crimes committed by African-Caribbean people are not different from crimes committed by any other racial group, and thus in my view do not deserve or merit any special attention on racial grounds. The crime and the problems which give rise to it should be the issue – the race of the perpetrators or victims does not add value to solving the real problem. Similarly, if kids are underachieving at school that is a cause of concern regardless of their race.

Yes, we can say that a greater number of African and Caribbean kids are doing less well in schools. However, any discussion into that issue should focus not on the fact that they are ‘black’, but on tangible, deeper issues such as economics, housing, or the education system itself. Underachievement is not a ‘black’ problem – it’s a societal problem.

The majority of crime in this country is not committed by people of colour, yet we do not talk about ‘white’ crime and point at the issues within the ‘white’ community. The focus is on the individuals and the circumstances which give rise to their criminal behaviour (as it should be). There is a big body of evidence which shows that English working class kids are also underachieving in school – but those conversations are never focussed on race.

The more we have debates about ‘black’ people and ‘black’ problems, the more stereotyping we will have because in reality there are so many variations of individuals and unique circumstances and situations that fall under the banner of ‘black’ that you can only ever be stereotyping and generalizing when using the term.

Discussions which use race as an indicator of a problem necessarily avoid looking at the actual issues, because they suggest that there is something in a particular racial group that gives rise to that problem. A talk about gun crime cannot ever get to the heart of the matter for as long as ‘black’ is attached to it – how it is possible to have a sensible debate or come up with solutions on the basis of something (race) which does not actually exist?

So what’s the solution? The solution is that everyone drops references to race or ethnicity and simply tackles the issues. Educational underachievement is a problem. Gun crime is a problem. Adding ‘black’ to that does not give us any insight into, or understanding of, the problem or how to tackle it. It does nothing more than enable people to continue to talk in generalizations and stereotypes about individuals of colour – something which we know is very dangerous.

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3 thoughts on “Being Black…

  1. Lola,

    Great post! I agree with you 100%. Drop the race for everything. You see I am white and my wife is black. We have a son and I have recently learned that according to the government consensus, when my son is asked to put race on anything, he is supposed to use the color of his father. If that don’t beat all. What the heck does color have to do with anything?

    I have been thinking of teaching him to do what I do, although I have recieved flack from all races for doing this that is; I choose other and write in American! I think that every one should do that. If you happen to be white and your from Jamaica write in Jamaican. That’s my two cents for the day. I hope you have a blessed day!

  2. Lola,

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  3. Great article I do appreciate the message that you are trying to put out. I want to start off by saying that I am black and have lived in a black neighborhood all my life. I grew up in underdeveloped neiborhoods and have moved on to positive black neiborhoods post college education. I like the message but I also feel you are not thinking in realistic terms. If there were a global disease that is killing/affecting the black population on an acute massive level are you going to deny that it is not affecting the black race because you want to focus on the disease and not the race it is affecting? Are you going to simply deny that fact? I think you have to think in realistic terms and understand that there are a large population of blacks that do not represent positive black people like myself well. There are a population of positive black people out there that a lot of people other than black do not know about because we are overshadowed and overlooked by black people who represent the black population in a negative way. The prison population is dominated by blacks(research it on the internet) as well as the crime rate. There is an education problem related to a majority black population but yet you want to deny that it is not a black issue. I feel that we need to educate our black population on reality and try to figure out the problem and do what it takes to solve the problem. I feel that we need to promote our black population to represent us black people in a positive way and maybe issues with blacks such as racial profiling will go away. We cannot deny the fact that problems with crime and education are not related to our race–that would be unrealistic. We need to be proud of being black, know we are black, know about the problems that us black people have, learn about the cause, educate our people about the problems and promote problem solving. The message you are sending is like trying to deny that there is no difference between girl and boy or tall and short or between a white and black crayon. The whole world is segregated–you have the rich people that live in rich neiborhoods–poor people who live in poor neiborhoods–in high school you have the jocks who hang out with the jocks and the skaters who hang out with the skaters, etc. The whole world is segregated and you are never going to change that. Let us understand that we are black and let us be proud of being black by promoting our black population to represent us black people in a positive way just like our president of the USA is doing. Do not deny being black and do not deny the reality of problems that exist within our race. I am very proud to be a positive black individual who represents black people in a positive way.

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