“When crabs are in a barrel, they often attempt to pull down the few who try to escape from the top,” my grandmother used to tell me growing up.
The cultural black reference of “crabs in a barrel” was used to explain why blacks will often attempt to bring down one another while in spaces of suppression.
Institutionally, blacks in America are entrenched in spaces of social inequality, racial bias and disenfranchisement. Despite having a black president and a few landmark equal rights protections, this doesn’t erase the centuries of historic social exclusion and lack of personal equity that overshadow our progress.
Naturally, when people of color or any oppressed group are in a pursuit to achieve a sense of freedom, competition and bitter resolve occurs.
Like any other racial population in this country, blacks kill one another at a higher rate than any other group does to them. But so do whites, Latinos, Asians and everyone else.
We don’t use the term “white-on-white” crime to explain this matter, nor do we chastise whites for being responsible to blame for the majority of their community’s deaths.
As socially segregated as America continues to be, this is a normal expectation. So why do we often critique blacks across the city for it?
Recently in the local news, a viral video showed a group of Philly cops inexcusably beating an unarmed black man in East Germantown. The video, which was released on YouTube by a Los Angeles-based blogger, showed at least a dozen officers punching, kicking and insulting a black man who was arrested for a drug crime.
By the numbers, blacks are killed and brutalized by police at higher rates than whites. Yet, the current justice system and law enforcement bureau have a predominantly white population in power and influence.
It’s not a stretch to assume that racial bias plays a role in this disproportion of institutional mistreatment. However, socially, our local officials and fellow Philadelphians resort to victim-blaming blacks as adistraction to the larger problem.
“Black-on-black” crime is the excuse elected officials, like our current mayor, use to soften the blow of holding our current police department accountable for the irresponsible and reckless misconduct they engage in when it comes to ensuring that innocent black lives in this city receive proper consideration.
Talking about “black-on-black” crime in counterargument to racial police brutality is comparing apples to oranges. We typically expect civilians to partake in misconduct and criminal mischief -- but we shouldn’t accept that from the very powerful men and women in blue uniform designated to protect and serve us.
And just for the record, not all cops are racist torturers, just like all blacks aren’t killing one another. But we can’t escape the power of hard numbers and lost lives just like we can’t deny the larger picture because of them.
For far too long we’ve focused on the crabs and not the barrel -- that might be the first step to ensuring that all lives matter.
This views and opinions expressed in this piece are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Metro US.