Let’s Stop Pretending Black People Don’t Talk about Gang Violence

Misinformation, deceptive arguments, and hackneyed talking points have always been a part of American politics. They are about as commonplace as a hipster at a no-name coffee shop.

But what happens when conservatives who wish to see more black Americans embrace conservatism are basing their message on falsehoods? What if they are unknowingly peddling deceptive stereotypes about the people they wish to reach?

Recently, right-wing pundit C.J. Pearson repeated one of the most common false talking points about black Americans on Twitter:

“Black lives won’t matter to anyone until they start mattering to us.

And if no leader within the black community wants to talk about black on black crime, then I will.

I don’t care how young I am.”

It is a common misconception on the right that the black community does not care about black-on-black crime. Indeed, I’ve seen and heard many a right-winger make claims similar to that of Pearson’s. But there is one problem.

It’s a complete and utter lie. And too many of us have fallen for it.

You might be able to make this argument about certain individuals and groups on the left. But these groups do not represent the black community the way the talking heads want you to believe.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not here to bash Pearson; it seems he has been taken in by this falsehood like many others. Nevertheless, it is yet another false establishment GOP talking point preventing us from understanding the people we want to reach, and it is essential that we address it.

When you look at how the media – on both the left and the right – have covered issues concerning the black community, it seems understandable that so many would buy into this particular stereotype. Anytime a riot occurs as the result of a police shooting of an unarmed black man, it receives national coverage.

And when these issues come up, I see many conservatives say things like:

“Why won’t they riot when a black person is killed by a black gang member?”

“Why do they only care about black lives that are taken by the police?”

“They don’t hold protests against gang violence!”

But what if none of these statements were actually true? What if black Americans all across the nation were holding anti-gang violence marches and protests throughout the year, and you knew nothing about it? Here’s the reality: Hundreds of organizations are working to stop gang violence across the country and chances are, most of us are completely unaware.

One such group is Open Door, a non-profit organization founded in 1988 by Reverend Leon Kelly. The group’s mission is to curb gang violence and recruitment in the Denver Metro area. Their primary objective is to decrease the number of kids who join street gangs. But the organization does interact with current gang members as well. In this way, they can facilitate peaceful interactions between rival gangs and decrease violence.

The organization implements a series of programs intended to give these kids an alternative to gang life. These include after school programs, mentoring, family relationship assistance, job readiness, and many others. According to the organization’s website, the group “was involved in more than 200 crisis interventions on the street and 530 individuals and family assistance sessions,” in a one year period. They have also made a significant number of presentations to schools, churches, and especially law enforcement agencies.

STRONG Youth, a Long Island-based organization, engages in activities similar to that of Open Doors. They have several chapters in the area that also implements various programs to address the gang problem. They provide “one on one counseling, intensive weekly psycho-educational groups that promote positive social-emotional development,” and other initiatives to benefit those who are at risk.

These are only two of the organizations that are on the front lines in confronting the problem of gang violence. There are literally hundreds more. But even more than that, black residents of inner cities regularly hold marches and rallies against violence.

Just this year, there have been a multitude of Stop the Violence rallies all across the country. They have occurred in cities like Mobile, Baltimore, Newark, and Macon. Again, these four rallies are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg; there are plenty more that happen every single year.

I have given you, dear reader, only a sample of the overall efforts to curb gang violence in the inner cities. These are initiatives created and led by black Americans working to rebuild their communities. But why doesn’t the rest of the country seem to know about them? To repurpose a popular quote: It’s the media, stupid!

If you’re a conservative, you know how the corporate media works. They give you the stories that they want you to see and ignore the ones they don’t. Their reportage on the black community is no different. News outlets on both the left and the right are only interested in riots and police shootings. Apparently, black people working to solve our own problems isn’t sexy – or bloody – enough. After all, both sides have a narrative to promote, right?

Let’s face it. On the right, we have a serious misinformation problem when it comes to the black community.

If you get most of your information on the black community from media, you’d think the majority of us are progressive SJW’s who refuse to solve our own problems. It’s that victimhood mentality that many conservatives are so fond of citing, isn’t it? But the truth is much different.

If we have learned anything over the past few decades, it’s that the current Republican black outreach strategy (or lack thereof) has not moved the needle. One of the primary reasons for this is that the right does not engage with the black community in person. The fact that much of the right’s messaging efforts are reliant on falsehoods and stereotypes does not help either.

If we want to win more black Americans to conservatism, it means we must stop taking the usual talking points at face value. It is time to question the messaging we have been given and to gain an authentic understanding of the black community. Only then can we craft a message that will attract black voters instead of repelling them.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!

Follow me on Twitter: @JeffOnTheRight