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Are Race and Crime Inextricably linked?
Transcript of Are Race and Crime Inextricably linked?
What is Race?
The notion of 'race' does not have any scientific validity. Classifying humans by race is completely arbitrary. It is not possible to argue on current evidence that the distinctive behaviour of a group have biological origins.
'Ethnicity' refers to a group possessing some degree of coherence and solidarity based on awareness of common origins or interests.
The over-representation of ethnic minorities in the Criminal Justice System
Ethnic minorities are over-represented at almost all stages of the Criminal Justice System in the UK.
In 2010-11 it was found that Black people are seven times as likely and Asian people are twice as likely to be stopped and searched by the Police as White people.
In 2009-10 it was found that Black people are 3.3 times as likely and Mixed Race people are 2.3 times more likely to be arrested as White people.
In 2011 it was found that Black offenders were 44% more likely than White offenders to be given a prison sentence for driving offences, 38% more likely for public order offences or carrying a weapon and 27% more likely for possession of drugs. Asian people were 19% more likely than White people to be given a prison sentence for shoplifting and 41% more likely to for drug offences.
Ethnic minority groups are also over-represented in prison with White people only making up 74.3% of the prison population in 2011, compared to 86% of the general population.
Why is this?
Crime statistics do not tell us whether members of one group are more likely than members of another to commit an offence in the first place, they just tell us about involvement in the Criminal Justice System.
The Police have a history of targeting ethnic minorities, particularly young men. Some will have committed offences, many more will not. However, an offender can only be taken further within the criminal justice system if their crime has been discovered.
Some argue that this is because some ethnic minority groups are concentrated in areas that the Police are more likely to stop and search in and that if an area is disproportionately represented by, for example, young Black males, then they are more likely to be stoppped and searched not because of their race, but because of their location.
The over-representation of ethnic minorities as victims of crime
Black people in London are ten times more likely than white people to be the victims of a racist attack, seven times more likely to be homicide victims, three times more likely to be domestic violence victims, three times more likely to be raped, 2.6 times more likely to suffer violent crime, and 1.6 times more likely to be victims of robbery.
Why is this?
Although racist hate crimes play a role in the over-representation of ethnic minorities as victims of crime, most violent crimes are committed by someone of the same race as the victim. From 2001-2 to 2004-5, in 74.2 % of homicide cases where the victim was Black, the perpetrator was also Black.
One reason for the over-representation of ethnic minorities as victims of crime could be because many ethnic minority groups are concentrated in areas of social deprivation and as such as a group are more exposed to crime than White people.
Lea and Young (1993) argued that crime statistics are generally accurate and that young Black men actually are committing more crime than other groups. They argued that Black people are not the victims of a racist Criminal Justice System, but are actually more likely to be involved in street crime than White people.
Left Realists argue that racism has lead to the marginalisation of and economic exclusion of ethnic minorities, resulting in higher levels of unemployment, poverty and poor housing. They think that societal emphasis on consumerism results in the feeling of relative deprivation, which drives the formation of subcultural groups that use illegitimate means, e.g. theft and robbery, to meet the materialistic goals set by society and their frustration can lead to violence and rioting.
They argue that the over-representation of ethnic minorities in crime statistics are the outcome of a social construction process that stereotypes ethnic minorities as more criminal than the majority population. Gilroy argues that the idea of Black criminality is a myth created by racist stereotypes. He thinks that in reality these groups are no more criminal than any other group and that as the Criminal Justice System acts on these racist stereotypes, minorities are criminalised and therefore over-represented in crime statistics.
Gilroy also believed that ethnic minority crime is a form of political resistance againts a racist society and that this has its roots in struggles against British Imperialism. They say that most ethnic minorities in the UK originated from former British colonies and that their anti-colonial struggles taught them how to resist oppression. They say that when they found themselves facing racism in the UK, they adopted forms of struggle to defend themselves, but that their political struggle was criminalised by the British state.
Lea and Young criticised Gilroy as they say first generation immigrants were law abiding and that it is unlikely they passed on a tradition of anti-colonial struggle.
Also his view does not take into account crime where the perpetrator is the same race as the victim.
They also criticised the way he romanticised street crime as revolutionary.
Other explanations for higher rates of street crime amongst young Black males
Some blame educational success. In 2006, only 23% of Black boys achieved 5 GCSEs. Low educational attainment affects self-confidence and employability.
Family structure is also blamed as 60% of young Black males live in single parent families.
The influences of mass media, particularly rap music is often attributed to crminality.
How much can race be linked to crime?
Studies on race and offending usually compare white and ethnic minority groups to discover differences in treatment, but this in itself tells us little unless we take into account other factors such as social class, demography, area, gender, family, school and employment processes. In many cases these other factors may override or cancel out the influence of race or ethnicity, while in other instances the influence of race or ethnicity may be present among all these other factors.
Why are race and crime continually linked?
One suggestion for why the association with crime and race is so longstanding is that criminologists believed that social deviants were biologically and culturally different to the ‘normal’ population and that their inferiority was visible in their physical appearance. As such, this idea of appearance causing or revealing criminality is one that is rooted in our minds.