Race & Crime
1. Many criminologists are interested in races but only in establishing correlations. Or race
and bail or sentencing decisions. Race for many criminologists are simply a variable.
There is very little effort to interrogate what race actually means. Race was thought of as
the difference between whites and non-whites. These groups were viewed as less
sustained, capable, and primitive. In the late 1800s, early 1900s, this view of whites and
non-whites were viewed in a scientific and biological way. This resulted into
classifications of the races in a hierarchy such as whites being at the top and etc. Racial
hierarchies were viewed and justified and legitimized by these guys who did this
scientific inquiry. Due to this, race has a very powerful meaning. It was seen as the basis
for understanding different peoples and groups. This included intelligence, crime, etc.
Race is a fundamental, biological, marker. Like Lombroso, race was viewed in a very
physical and biological way. The limitations to this view is that race accounts for a very
small percentage of a genetic variation in groups. The percentage is less than .01%.
Biologically then, race doesn’t appear to be very meaningful. The other limitation is the
classification of race. What whiteness means and the ability to classify people as white
or non-white is quite problematic. This exercise is subject to historical, social and
political influences and variations. It is then important to think of race as a social and
political construction and invention. Due to this, race impacts people’s lives dramatically.
Sex is biological, gender is sociological.
The way we think about race is a result of societal perceptions.
2. Traditional Racism: This represents an openly negative, pejorative view of particular
groups of being inherently inferior. The idea that certain groups are less intelligent,
capable, more violent, crime prone, etc. When people express an attitude about another
group with a specific intent, this way very common. This kind of racism is overt, visible.
It is important to differentiate this and traditional racism. We should think of racism in a
more subtle and sophisticated way. Society today doesn’t tolerate openly racist views.
Racism has now become more subtle and invisible.
Symbolic Racism: This refers to a negative representation of a social group(s) which is
expressed through language, symbolism, ideology, discourse. These representations
while overtly non racist, are indeed informed by popular understandings of race and
reproduce race based accounts of social problems. Ex. The show Homeland. People
argue this show is racist since it produces stereotypes on Muslims as terrorists. Another
example is Bill O’Reilly’s radio show and his racist remarks about black restaurants.
Systemic Racism: Involves institutional practices. Systemic racism refers to patterns
and practices in society and its institutions although they may not intend to
disadvantage any specific group, they can have the effect of permitting discrimination
against racialized groups and thus reproducing raced based forms of inequality. Also referred to as institutio