All but one of the murder victims in St. Louis last year were Black, and everybody accused of those murders were also Black. Those were the statistics that prompted one of the city’s top law enforcement officials to make a personal plea to his fellow African-Americans: Stop it now.
“One hundred percent of the people that were caught and accused of those crimes were African-Americans. We have to address that,” St. Louis Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards said specifically to “Black folk” during an event marking the annual martin Luther King, Jr. national holiday on Monday. “We cannot go forward and continue King’s dream unless we look in the mirror and address that problem. That’s a problem that’s on us.”
While the words of Edwards, a former judge who is Black, were noble and fell right in line with Dr. King’s philosophy, he failed to provide context for Black-on-Black murders and overall crime: economic status.
“Poverty and crime are correlated, and low-income neighborhoods often see more crime,” the Washington Post noted in an article late last year. As such, it should be no surprise that the poverty rate in St. Louis County has reportedly been on the rise for several years now. St. Louis also has the 15th largest population of Black people in the U.S.
Another important statistic missing from Edwards’ words were the rate at which Black people were killed by police last year. While the data in St. Louis was not immediately available, at least 1,129 people were killed by police last year, with 25 percent of the victims being Black.
In fact, one of the reasons Edwards has his job is because he was appointed to the position in October, just about a month after the riots that broke out following a White police officer’s questionable acquittal of murdering a Black suspect.
There is never an excuse for murder, but there are certainly factors that can enable the killings and go without being properly addressed by municipal leaders who routinely find it easier to point the finger at everyone but themselves.
“Every time the term black-on-black crime is used, the term that comes to human consciousness is race,” David Wilson, professor at the University of Illinois and author of “Inventing Black-on-Black Violence,” told The Christian Science Monitor in 2016. “The term really privileges that notion that race is at the core of the process.”