Though the notion of crime in Black neighborhoods continues to dominate some discourse, public narratives often fail to highlight the disproportionate level of victimization in those same neighborhoods. Violence and the disproportionate rates of victimization in Black communities is a product of structural racism.

The Center for Victim Research documents that for the past four decades, Black people had 1.5 to 2 times greater risk of being victims of serious violence than white people. Evidence shows Black men are most likely to be homicide victims, and Black and Native American women are more likely to experience intimate partner violence in their lifetimes than white women. Black women, specifically, are 2.5 times more likely than white women to be murdered by men. Most often hidden, due to white supremacy and patriarchal gender norms, is the fact Black transgender women are more likely to be murdered than transgender women of any other race.

Particular risk factors for violent victimization, often mirroring risk factors for violent crime perpetration, include previous victimization experiences, mental health challenges, low parental education, poverty, and homelessness. In a society dominated by white supremacy, Black people are more vulnerable to such risks. Black youth experience adverse childhood experiences more than young people of other races. Though Black Americans experience mental health challenges at similar rates as the general population, they often receive inadequate care to address their illnesses. Black Americans are more likely than white Americans to experience poverty and unemployment. Though Black people make up 13 percent of the total US population, they account for 40 percent of the estimated homeless population.

To reduce these risk factors for crime and victimization, public officials must invest adequate resources that support Black Americans’ mental health treatment, education, economic stability, and housing opportunities.

Read the full article about how racist structures victimize black lives by Storm Ervin and Susan Nembhard at Urban Institute.