Policy Demands for Black Power, Freedom and Justice

by Mike Kimel

Policy Demands for Black Power, Freedom and Justice

Earlier this month NBC news reported:

The Movement for Black Lives — under the catch-all banner of the Black Lives Matter movement — has put together what it describes as a “clear vision of the world where black humanity and dignity is the reality.”

In the plan, titled “A Vision for Black Lives: Policy Demands for Black Power, Freedom and Justice,” dozens of established activist and advocacy groups joined forces to offer six core demands and 40 policy priorities.

It is clear that the demands cannot be met. This is not a comment on whether the Black Lives Movement is serious, about whether their goals are desirable, or about whether they will be able to force society to take their demands seriously. Rather, it is a statement that their demands are not internally consistent. Simply put, the solution to their grievances in some areas will necessarily make other issues which they (and the rest of us, for that matter) are concerned about worse.

One example from the section entitled End the War on Black People begins with this bullet point:

For Black girls, the U.S.’s failure to address gender-based violence, which they experience at greater levels than any other group, is paramount to the criminalization they experience. In fact, sexual abuse is one of the primary predictors of girls’ entry into the juvenile justice system, with girls often being routed to the system specifically because of their victimization. For instance, girls who are victims of sex trafficking are often arrested on prostitution charges. The punitive nature of this system is ill-equipped to support young girls through the violence and trauma they’ve experienced, which further subjects them to sexual victimization and a lifelong path of criminalization and abuse.

Ending gender-based violence is, of course, a laudable goal. If it has secondary benefits like preventing girls and women from a lifelong path of criminalization and abuse, so much the better.

Now, from the same page:

While Black people represent about 13 percent of the population of the U.S., we represent upwards of 40 percent of those caged in jails, prisons, and juvenile detention.


The rate at which the U.S. imprisons its people and the staggering percentage of imprisoned people who are Black indicates the country’s orientation toward containment and control as its primary modes of dealing with the issues created by social, political, and economic inequities. The use of imprisonment and increasingly long sentences as “catch all” responses to everything from economic desperation, to substance dependence, to nonconforming gender identities also has devastating effects on the communities from which imprisoned people come.

Now, alternatives to incarceration do exist. However, those alternatives tend to be less likely to limit a person’s opportunity to commit crimes against people outside of jail.

Now, from the American Bar Association:

Overall, African Americans were victimized by intimate partners a significantly higher rates than persons of any other race between 1993 and 1998. Black females experienced intimate partner violence at a rate 35% higher than that of white females, and about 22 times the rate of women of other races. Black males experienced intimate partner violence at a rate about 62% higher than that of white males and about 2.5 times the rate of men of other races.

Also, this:

The number one killer of African-American women ages 15 to 34 is homicide at the hands of a current or former intimate partner.

A bit more recent data is available from the FBI:

Violence - by victim and offenderFigure 1

The little asterisk next to the figure for White offender / Black victim indicates that “Estimate is based on 10 or fewer samples.”

Thus, Black people are more in danger of sexual violence than other groups. Additionally, the overwhelming majority, and perhaps substantially all of the rapes/sexual assaults against Black people were perpetrated by other Black people.

Now, one more demand from Black Lives Matter:

An End to the Mass Surveillance of Black Communities, and the End to the Use of Technologies that Criminalize and Target Our Communities (Including IMSI Catchers, Drones, Body Cameras, and Predictive Policing Software).

So how do you reduce the rate of reduce the violence, particularly sexual violence against Black people while simultaneously reducing both the incarceration rate of Black people and surveillance of Black communities? What is the mechanism by which sexual violence is expected to decrease, other than wishful thinking? Of course, taking out the word “Black” and replacing it with “White” or “Asian” or “Hispanic” or any other group in the previous sentence would not make it any less hard to square the circle. However, the elevated rate of victimization of Black people makes the stakes that much higher when we are discussing crime in the Black community. Its a pity the Black Lives Movement and its allies either cannot or will not come up with a response that won’t make the plight of law-abiding Black people worse.