Stephen A. Smith
Photo: ESPN

Former Winston-Salem State basketball player and current national sports pundit Steven A. Smith recklessly suggested on Twitter that African-Americans are unconcerned about so-called black-on-black crime after learning that an audience booed Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley for saying “all lives matter during a recent speech.

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Smith’s statements are common among those who are ignorant of the Black Lives Matter movement, which gained steam in recent years in response to the high-profile deaths of Travyon Martin, Mike Brown, Gray, Eric Garner, John Crawford and Tamir Rice at the hands of law enforcement.

The movement, at its core, is one that wants to highlight the state violence committed against black people that has gone on unabated and without consequence in many cases.

Co-Black Lives Matter founder Alicia Garza detailed the meaning behind the philosophy:

When we say Black Lives Matter, we are talking about the ways in which black people are deprived of our basic human rights and dignity. It is an acknowledgement black poverty and genocide is state violence. It is an acknowledgment that 1 million black people are locked in cages in this country—one half of all people in prisons or jails—is an act of state violence. It is an acknowledgment that black women continue to bear the burden of a relentless assault on our children and our families and that assault is an act of state violence. Black queer and trans folks bearing a unique burden in a hetero-patriarchal society that disposes of us like garbage and simultaneously fetishizes us and profits off of us is state violence; the fact that 500,000 black people in the US are undocumented immigrants and relegated to the shadows is state violence; the fact that black girls are used as negotiating chips during times of conflict and war is state violence; black folks living with disabilities and different abilities bear the burden of state-sponsored Darwinian experiments that attempt to squeeze us into boxes of normality defined by white supremacy is state violence. And the fact is that the lives of black people—not ALL people—exist within these conditions is consequence of state violence.

To say “All Lives Matter” in response to Black Lives Matter is disingenuous to the reality and race-based injustices and oppression that black people have been subject to.

To attempt to juxtapose or correlate Black Lives Matter with perceived apathy about black violence is a slap in the face to every single person or grassroots anti-violence organization working to prevent violence in their own community.

Go tell Ameena Matthews, a woman who works in violence prevention with Chicago-based CeaseFire, that black people don’t care about black-on-black crime.

Make your case to members of the 25 Philadelphia area anti-violence and crime prevention groups that people of color are not passionate about curbing violence.

In the midst of all the rallies, marches and uprisings following the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Munir Bahar, one of the founders of the 300 Men March, held an “Occupy Our Corners” anti-violence rally after the city reached 100 homicides.

Never mind that the term “black-on-black crime” is a dangerous one that presents black people as pathologically violent and criminal more than any other race.

All crime is intraracial. Whites are more likely to kill whites. Hispanics are more likely to kill Hispanics. Asians the same.  But only black people are seemingly held to this standard of having to explain why their violence is inherently different than others.

Black people are the only group that has to keep the conversation going about black violence to prove we’re humane. We’re always talking about, concerned about, trying to do something about black violence. There isn’t a day that goes by I don’t hear or read comments from someone lamenting over what’s going to be done about all the shootings and killings.

But people view things through their own prism, I guess.

In the middle of a rant regarding the recent death of 28-year-old Sandra Bland Friday morning, comedian and morning talk show host Rickey Smiley also made mention of black-on-black crime.

Just think about that for a second. Even in the face of injustice, black people still feel the need to simultaneously chastise themselves about their shortcomings.

Do we ever hear or read about law enforcement doing something similar after a citizen is harmed by their might?

“I know everyone at the police department is upset that Officer Harris was killed last night during a shootout with a robber, but when are we going to stop killing unharmed black people?”

That would never happen. Law enforcement doubles down. The state gets tone deaf to the issues that create the outcry. When pushed, those in power would only admit their failures through gritted teeth.

It is easy for Smith and others to dismiss the Black Lives Matter movement and shift the focus elsewhere because confronting racial disparities is too hard for them.

Smith is the same man who used respectability politics to support Mark Cuban’s fear of black men in hoodies.

All lives do matter. Eradicating black-on-black crime also matters.

So do the lives of black people within a white supremacist system that works hard to impede their progress. But everyone doesn’t believe that, though.

That’s what all the fuss is about, Stephen A.



2 COMMENTS

  1. Smith doesn’t believe in a “white-supremacist system” and I happen to agree with him. Certainly it was real years ago, but things have changed a lot since then whether or not people want to acknowledge that. The US is not perfect, but it is far from what it used to be. (If you want to look at what an actual white-supremacist system is, look at Israel and what Palestinians must go through in their ancestral homeland for not being Jews.) The fact is that black people are killing their own *more often* than other races kill their own in America–far more often in fact. This is why there are so many black Americans in jail, per capita. It’s not because police or the state doesn’t like them, it’s because living in poverty causes irrational, antisocial behavior, and it is passed from parent to child by example, and by peer to peer by example. This is what Smith is getting at–the behavior. How many mothers have lost their sons to black on black violence or to prison? Too many! The same person who today says #BlackLivesMatter on twitter next week will get in a fight over a girl that results in someone’s arrest–and the arrest won’t be because of racist police! That is shameful and needs to stop. Yes there are great grassroots anti-violence organizations and I’m sure Smith would praise them and thinks of them as good and necessary. But that is not the issue at hand. The media isn’t talking about those–the pundits on CNN don’t talk about those and the white neo-liberals on tumblr and twitter and facebook don’t talk about those. They want the focus to be on racist police and prison system, as if all those prisoners are innocent. And the talking doesn’t do anything. It takes action. As time goes on more black Americans are graduating from high school and college and this is a good thing. More black Americans are rejecting the world of drugs, drug distribution, and drug violence, and this is a good thing. More are *rejecting* the world of petty-violence, replying to an insult with a firearm, replying to being cheated-on with a knife, and this is a good thing. This must continue and emphasizing this behavior (or the rejection of behavior) is a much more helpful and pressing issue than police or “state violence”.

  2. un.christian YOUR WRONG BOY

    The sad thing is that Stephen actually thinks that he’s right. The problem is that he says he respects the ‘black lives matter’ movement, but he clearly doesn’t understand it. The people who specifically started the black lives movement have explained time and time again why it is disrespectful to respond to black lives matter with all lives matter. The problem is that people don’t take the time to educate themselves. Just being a black man doesn’t mean that you have any idea about the black lives matter movement.

    Those are two different issues that needs to be dealt separately. when the police that are paid by us to protect us ,are gunning us down, that is an issue. when black men obtain guns and kill other black man that is another issue; let’s not throw everything in the pot. separate the matters they are two different matters.

    It didn’t stem from only black people getting killed, but black people getting killed by people who didn’t suffer repercussions. When black on black crime happens the person gets locked up. What more do you expect to happen to them beyond that? People do rally & there are organizations that talk to people in the hood & organizations to help get people off the streets. What more can be done than that? Were as the situation with the police is different. There have been no repercussions for their actions. They would just get a paid vacation. It isn’t every black person in existence killing each other out there nor has anyone ever not cared. The only people who stopped caring is the people who don’t live in the hood & try to turn a blind eye. The ones who look down upon people living in these areas. There are way too many black people who stand against black on black crime for people to sit there saying we are okay with black on black crime, but only say something when it is the police. The people who are making these claims are the true ones that feel that way, because if you even gave the slightest effort to stand against it you would see that there is a crazy number of people out there who stand against it. A lot of people against it are afraid to speak up though, because they don’t want to walk up to these people in the streets & get killed for speaking against them. Lets be real. beyond them getting locked up & us doing rallies the only other option is to walk up to them face to face & i’m pretty sure walking up to someone who will kill you no problem & telling them not to kill won’t make them say “oh yea you are right. I won’t kill anymore.”

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