Dominion of New York

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April 16, 2012

“Whites Commit Crimes, But Black Males Are Criminals”

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Written by: Kelly Virella
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n the late 1800s, when America was experiencing an influx of European immigrants, those immigrants communities were as plagued with crime and violence as black American communities were. But social scientists and reformers studying each group had radically different reactions to them. The thinkers and advocates of the day reasoned that high crime rates among European immigrants stemmed  from the economic barriers they faced. To help them assimilate, their supporters set up an array of social services and reforms that succeeded in integrating European immigrants into the American working class. Black Americans, on the other hand, newly freed from slavery, were afforded no such benefit of the doubt. The entire race was tarnished by the crimes a few committed and those crimes were chalked up to the intellectual, cultural or moral inferiority of blacks.

A few days ago in a widely circulated opinion piece for The New York Times, this is an insight that Khalil Gibran Muhammad offered as context for the debate about black crime sparked by the murder of Trayvon Martin. What he barely mentioned in his article is that in 2010, he published a groundbreaking book about this subject. His book is called The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America. Harvard University Press, the book’s publisher, said it exposes:

the glue that binds crime to race”—the logic by which we in America are able to convince ourselves that “whites commit crimes, but black males are criminals.” That last phrase comes from Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David Levering Lewis, who upon reading Muhammad’s book pronounced it a “mandatory read.”

Here’s a video in which he Muhammad talks about the book:


Have you read it? If so, what did you think?

H/T Chauncey DeVega,

About the Author

Kelly Virella
Kelly Virella lives in an East Harlem walk-up with her husband, her bicycle and her books. She's worked as a journalist for 11 years and started this website during the summer of 2011. She fell in love with New York City during her first visit here as a 16-year-old and finally made good on her promise to move here in April 2010.


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