Poor people are often forced to take extreme measures to survive, these measures may involve crime. Statistically, African-American’s live in lower socioeconomic conditions than other Americans. At one point, questionable reporting of crime led to strong perceptions that African-Americans had a greater criminal prevalence than whites. How did this happen?
In the 1980’s news headlines had a tendency to highlight when African-Americans were part of criminal activity. Headlines reading ‘Black man arrested…’ appeared with regularity, whereas if the perpetrator was anything other than African-American then no mention of race was made. Raised awareness for the media’s propensity for highlighting race only when an African-American was a perpetrator led to a decline in racial distinctionin criminal reporting. The reason for this is not that the reporting was false, it’s because we came to a simple realisation…
We came to the understanding that ‘issue’ was not synonymous with ‘race’.
To clarify, even if statistically a race is more frequently arrested for criminal activity, does not mean race is the criminal cause. If whites made up the majority of low socioeconomic America, whites would be more frequently arrested for criminal activity. Race doesn’t promote crime, a lack of wealth and legitimate opportunity promotes criminal behaviour. Being a minority however removes opportunity, which directly affects wealth.
The media now is unlikely to promote the headline “black man arrested”, however making crime synonymous with gender, “man arrested”, is still a media norm.
Studies have shown that within African-American communities, the idea that ‘black men’ are dangerous has been so socially internalised, that it now affects the self-perceptionof its own male members. In short, even the men living in these communities fear each other and view their fellows as dangerous. I personally believe this occurrence, this norm of viewing men as dangerous has spread outside the African American community to western culture at large. In other words, it is socially accepted that the male gender is synonymous with violent or dangerous crime.
Regardless of whether men are frequently arrested for violent crime, do you believe that gender is the criminal cause?
If you are one of the people who feel that ‘issue’ is synonymous with ‘men’, I would leave you to consider a few questions. I do not offer answers to these questions, they are merely there for you to give some thought to how you feel and why you might feel that way.
Food for thought
- Do you think adult violence is the result of nature, or nurture?
- Is the male gender inherently violent, or does societally-enforced male gender-role promote violence?
- Is it considered masculine to be violent, to commit violence, to be the subject of violence, to endure violence?
- Is violence associated with masculine strength and toughness—effectively, is a male required to be violent or a victim to violence to be ‘a real man’?
- Is male violent crime systemic of the male gender role?
- If historically women had been tasked with the gender role of protector, and men with the gender role of mother/nurturer—do you think that violent crime gender stats would still be what they are now?