Editor's Note: (Clay Cane is a Sirius XM radio host and the author of "Live Through This: Surviving the Intersections of Sexuality, God, and Race." Follow him on Twitter @claycane. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his. View more opinion articles on CNN. )
(CNN) Rapper Nipsey Hussle was shot and killed Sunday outside of his clothing store in Los Angeles, California. The father of two was only 33 years old.
He was not only a Grammy nominated hip-hop artist, he was also an entrepreneur in his own community, actively working to create economic growth and trying to monetize connections between tech spaces and inner-city kids.
While many people abandon their neighborhoods if they even get a taste of money and access, Hussle did the exact opposite. Beyond hip-hop, community building is Nipsey Hussle's legacy, which will hopefully live long past his premature death. Sadly, social media is already being flooded by many trying to use Hussle as an example of the always popular, intellectually bereft black-on-black crime talking point.
One Twitter user wrote, "NipseyHussle was a thug. Pants falling off, covered in tattoos, dirty. You live by the sword, you die by the sword. Why do so many #black #men believe they can be connected to #crime and not at some point end up #dead?"
A user who claims to be a Black conservative wrote, "We need to address the issue of Black on Black crime. No more identity politics in the Black community."
Another user specifically called out those calling Hussle's death black-on-black crime, tweeting, "We as white people are so quick to talk about 'Black on Black crime' but aren't willing to critically look at the systems that we help uphold, that we are completely complicit in making sure survive." A related conversation is playing out as the investigation of Hussle's death unfolds. Media reports cite sources saying the killing was "gang-related," while local community leaders in Los Angeles have said his killing had nothing to do with gangs.
In February of 2018, Hussle, whose real name was Ermias Asghedom, opened a co-working space and helped to launch a STEM program in the Crenshaw area of Los Angeles. STEM programs integrate science, technology, engineering and mathematics in a way that is accessible to students.
Hussle also opened The Marathon Clothing store in June of 2017 with his brother as the co-owner. Earlier this year, he purchased the entire plaza where he rented space for the store. Forbes reported he planned to knock down the space and rebuild a six-story residential building atop a commercial plaza.
In March of 2018, Hussle told the Los Angeles Times, "In our culture, there's a narrative that says, 'Follow the athletes, follow the entertainers.' And that's cool but there should be something that says, 'Follow Elon Musk, follow (Mark) Zuckerberg.' I think that with me being influential as an artist and young and coming from the inner city, it makes sense for me to be one of the people that's waving that flag."
When Gianni Versace and John Lennon were tragically murdered by white men, no one cried white-on-white crime. The Italian mafia has been glamorized and worshipped in popular culture for decades, but you hardly ever hear people shouting about the harmful social impact of "Italian-on-Italian" crime when real-life mob crimes have made headlines. The truth is, the majority of people are killed by others of their own race -- this is not a black issue.
According to statistics published by the Justice Department in 2017, between 2012 and 2015, half of violent crimes were "intraracial" -- "that is both victims and offenders were of the same race or both were of Hispanic origin." During the same time period, the rate of white-on-white violent crime was about four times higher than black-on-white violent crime.
Racializing crime perpetuates a stereotype that people in "these" communities are naturally violent, uncivilized and have no regard for human life. The black-on-black crime myth upholds the idea that "these" communities need more law and order. This ignores the historical underpinnings of policies that have actively dismantled economic growth and perpetuated the legacy of poverty and government-enacted violence.
To make murder a race issue is the most insidious type of racism. Murder and crime are not a black pathology.
Obviously, no one should take another person's life and crime is an important issue in any and every community. But do not turn Nipsey Hussle into a black-on-black crime statistic. I could only imagine he would want to be remembered as a creative person who effected change and used his resources to better his community.