Race and crime

Race and crime

Speculative relationships between race and crime, and possible causes for these, have been discussed in criminology and sociology since the late 19th century.

Research that argues from genetic determinism is represented by the works of the Francis Galton, Cesare Lombroso and Samuel George Morton. Some modern research claims that crime is a product of social conditions, citing judicial and institutional racism as the reason for the correlative link between race and crime.

In the 1990s, genetic determinism made a popular resurgence with works like "The Bell Curve" by Richard J. Hernstein and Charles Murray, and "Race, Evolution, and Behavior" by J. Philippe Rushton. Criticisms of genetic determinism can be found in the works of Stephen Jay Gould, Axel Kahn, Jay Joseph, and the American Psychological Association.



In 1851, Samuel A. Cartwright, a physician, explained the tendency of slaves to run away (and thus disobey the law) by what he identified as a medical condition which he called "drapetomania." Cartwright also described "Dysaethesia Aethiopica", "called by overseers 'rascality'" which "is much more prevalent among free negroes living in clusters by themselves, than among slaves on our plantations, and attacks only such slaves as live like free negroes in regard to diet, drinks, exercise, etc." According to Cartwright, "nearly all [free negroes] are more or less afflicted with this mental disorder, that have not got some white person to direct and to take care of them." Such claims have been since denounced as forms of scientific racism.

Italian school

Race and crime were studied by criminal anthropologist Cesare Lombroso, who belonged to the Italian school of criminology of the end of the 19th century. Lombroso divided Northern Italians and Southern Italians in two different races, and argued that "Southern Italians were more crime-prone and lazy because they were unlucky enough to have less "Aryan" blood than their northern countrymen. [ Mary Gibson, "Born to Crime: Cesare Lombroso and the Origins of Biological Criminology", p.108 (Praeger Press. Hardcover - 272 pages - 2002)] Enrico Ferri, a student of Lombroso, considered black people to be of an "inferior race" and more prone to crime than others. [ Antony Walsh, [http://human-nature.com/nibbs/03/gibson.html The Holy Trinity and the Legacy of the Italian School of Criminal Anthropology] , Review of "Born to Crime: Cesare Lombroso and the Origins of Biological Criminology", by Mary Gibson. Published in "The Human Nature Review", 2003 Volume 3: 1-11 ( 15 January ) en icon]

Chicago school

The theories were disputed by later works of criminology, in particular by the Chicago school and environmental criminology, which insisted that social, economic and cultural factors explained criminality. "The slim economic opportunities and turbulent living conditions of young disadvantaged and black men may lead them to crime. In addition, elevated rates of offending in poor and minority neighborhoods compound the stigma of social marginality and provoke the scrutiny of criminal justice authorities." [ [http://www.asanet.org/galleries/default-file/ASRv69n2p.pdf 69200a-ASR_covers_&_FM.q41 ] ]

United States

Black on Black Crime

Homicide is the leading cause of death for African American males aged 15 - 34. In the year 2005 the Black homicide victimization rate was 6 times higher than the rate for Whites at 20.6 per 100,000, [ [http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/homicide/tables/vracetab.htm Department Of Justice] ] with 94% of Black homicide victims being killed by a Black offender. [ [http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/homicide/tables/vracetab.htm Department Of Justice] ] Explanations offered for the higher rates of crime among African Americans include family structure, [ [http://www.heritage.org/Research/Crime/BG1026.cfm The Real Root Causes of Violence] ] the higher rates of single parent families, unemployment and ecological concentrations of ghetto poverty, and other socio-economic causes. [Crime and Inequality By John Hagan, Ruth D. Peterson]

In the US, significantly less media coverage is given to crimes where the victim is black, compared with crimes where the victim is white. [ [http://www.ajr.org/Article.asp?id=2016 Paying More Attention to White Crime Victims] ]

Recent literature

Recent works of sociobiology have stimulated renewed interest about the relationship between ethnicity and criminality. Along with the attempt to justify the notion of race by genetics, this has been criticized by a variety of scholars, including clinical psychologist Jay Joseph in "The Gene Illusion" (2002) or the geneticist Axel Kahn's "Un gène ne commande jamais un destin humain". [ Axel Kahn, " [http://www.humanite.fr/journal/2007-04-04/2007-04-04-848961 « Un gène ne commande jamais un destin humain »] fr icon]

ee also

* Anthropological criminology
* William Bennett
* Marvin D. Free Jr.
* Genetics and violence
* Immigrant criminality
* Steven Levitt
* Race and intelligence
* Racial profiling
* Gender and crime
* Loïc Wacquant


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