Why Rudy Giuliani’s Focus On “Black-On-Black” Violence Is So Irrelevant

In the wake of so much loss and violence, many managed to rise above the tragedy and issue powerful, compassionate responses. The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah made the very important point that you can be both pro-cop and pro-black people not getting killed in the streets, while President Obama expressed both concern with police brutality and admiration for law enforcement. But on CBS’ Face the Nation Sunday, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani offered probably the worst response to recent events yet. According to Giuliani, not only is Black Lives Matter “inherently racist,” but also, the real concern here is not the systemic discrimination against a race, but actually “black-on-black” violence.

“If you want to protect black lives, then you’ve got to protect black lives not just against police,” Giuliani said, adding that African-Americans are obligated to explain “how and what they’re doing among themselves about the crime problem in the black community.”

He then proceeded to argue that activists are creating “a disproportion” by “focusing on 1 percent of less than 1 percent of the murder that’s going on in America,” a very incoherent statistic that neglects to consider how black men are only 6 percent of the U.S. population, but 40 percent of unarmed men shot and killed by police in 2015 were black, or how roughly 60 percent of individuals killed by police for nonthreatening behavior are black or Latino, according to The Washington Post.

Frankly, we could mull over statistics about how police brutality disproportionately affects black people because of racist perceptions of who is more dangerous and deserving of harsher treatment, but the real issue with using “black-on-black” violence to dismiss Black Lives Matter can’t be fittingly described with numbers. No one is saying that like all violence, violence by black people toward other black people isn’t deeply tragic or that it should be ignored. But the difference between police brutality toward black people, and the frankly over-exaggerated issue of black-on-black violence is that police are literally paid, and with taxpayer dollars, to protect and serve the public.

As per The Nation’s Gary Youge:

“Black people are not, by dint of their melanin content, instructed to protect and serve the public; the police, by dint of their employment, are. … So when the people entrusted with upholding the law kill someone, that raises very different issues than if a kid from down the block shoots somebody.”

Black teens are, according to some estimates, a whopping 21 times more likely to be shot by police than white teens, which, as Youge points out, “inevitably raises the question of discrimination,” and from “the people who are supposed to protect everybody,” no less.

Richard Branson & Rudy Giuliani Visit
CREDIT: Rob Kim/Getty Images

Violence within black communities is, again, tragic, but it shouldn’t be used to distract from how racial discrimination is, in fact, a thing, and one specific group of people is disproportionately and fatally suffering from the consequences of this. Additionally, those who, like Giuliani, would rather fixate on “black-on-black” violence than systemic racism hypocritically ignore the fact that rates of white-on-white violence are pretty much the same. According to a 2013 FBI Uniform Crime Report, 83 percent of white victims were killed by white offenders while 90 percent of black victims were killed by black offenders.

These numbers are roughly equal because as a general rule, victims of most crime are more often than not the same race as those who commit the crime, yet this only becomes problematic to opponents of Black Lives Matter activists when it comes to black communities. “The fact that black criminals are most likely to commit crimes against black people makes them just like everybody else,” Youge wrote in his 2014 article. In this sense, “a more honest term than ‘black-on-black crime’ would be, simply, ‘crime.'”

Equally, if not more problematic, was Giuliani’s demand that black activists explain their strategy for solving “black-on-black” crime, which frankly rings eerily similar to pervasive victim-blaming rhetoric. This not only shifts focus from the issue activists are justifiably protesting, but also unfairly places all responsibility for solving the issue of violence to African-Americans.

https://twitter.com/blackvoices/status/752292600770621440

“If I were a black father … I would say, ‘Be very respectful of the police.’ Most of them are good. … And just be very careful,” Giuliani white-splained, demonstrating how fully aware he is with the fact that black youth, unlike their white counterparts, have to walk on eggshells to avoid being killed by police, but also demonstrating how little he cares. There is clearly a double standard in how black and white citizens must behave with law enforcement, one recently highlighted by CNN’s Don Lemon. Giuliani comments show he knows this, which is why it’s so infuriating that he would still rather fixate solely on “black-on-black” violence.

As the icing on the cake of his racially insensitive interview, Giuliani concluded his segment with the tried and true declaration of those antagonistic to Black Lives Matter:

“When you say black lives matter, that’s inherently racist. Black lives matter, white lives matter, Asian lives matter, Hispanic lives matter. That’s anti-American and it’s racist.”

Ah, the only thing more American than apple pie itself: being told what’s “anti-American” and “racist” by an old white man. As all opponents of the movement do, Giuliani conveniently ignores how nowhere in the name “Black Lives Matter” is the word “only” included, but why take this lesson from me when you could take it from President Obama himself. During a Thursday speech in response to the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, the president said:

“When people say black lives matter, that doesn’t mean blue lives don’t matter; it just means all lives matter but right now the big concern is the fact that the data shows black folks are more vulnerable to these kinds of incidents.”

Giuliani is already facing backlash for his ignorance and insensitivity, but this isn’t the first time he’s made pretty much the exact same argument. Back in 2014, he made the same claims in the response to the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson. I strongly doubt that he’ll miraculously learn this time around, and unfortunately, given how frequently shit like this happens, this is probably not the last we’ll hear of him on this issue.