Neo-Marxism: black crime as a social construct

Neo-Marxists such a Gilroy and Hall reject the view that the statistics reflect reality. Rather, they are the outcome of a social construction process that stereotypes minorities as more criminal than whites.

Gilroy: the myth of black criminality

Gilroy argues that the idea of black criminality is a myth created by racist stereotypes of African Caribbean’s and Asians. In reality, these groups are no more criminal than other ethnic groups. But because the CJS acts on these racist stereotypes, minorities are criminalised and therefore appear in greater numbers in the official crime statistics.

Crime as a political resistance Gilroy argues that EM crime is a form of political resistance against a racist society, and this resistance has its roots in earlier struggles against British imperialism (when Britain extended their empire). Black and Asians originated from British colonies (The whole commonwealth) where they were oppressed (Slavery). Anti-colonial struggles taught them how to resist oppression through riots. Therefore, when they found themselves facing racism in Britain, they adopted to the same forms of struggle to defend themselves which is now innate for them to do so. Their political state (when they are fighting oppression) was criminalised by the British state. However, Lea and Young criticise Gilroy. First generation immigrants were law abiding; it’s unlikely they passed on a tradition of anti-colonial struggle. Most crime is intra-ethnic, not a struggle against racism. Gilroy wrongs romanticises street crime as revolutionary. Asian crime rates are similar to whites. If Gilroy were right, then police are only racist towards blacks, not Asians.

Hall et al: Policing the crisis

He argued that the 1970s saw a moral panic over black ‘muggers’ that served the interests of capitalism in dealing with a crisis. Hall et all argues that the ruling class are normally able to rule society through consent. But in times of crisis, this becomes more difficult. In the early 1970s, British capitalism faces a crisis: high inflation, unemployment and widespread strikes. They used this moral panic about muggers to distract society about what was really happening in society (inflation and unemployment), it served as a scapegoat (someone to put the blame on). This then actually led to them committing crimes as they faced the black lash of these typifications from the capitalist society. Therefore, this did leave committing petty crimes in order to survive as they were unable to get jobs due to this typification.

More recent explanations

Sociologists have examined two other explanations for ethnic differences in crime:

Neighbourhood factors: FitzGerald et al found street robberies were highest in very poor areas but where the people had to contact with richer groups. Young Blacks were more likely to live in these areas and to be poor, but poor whites in these areas were also more likely to commit street crime. Thus, ethnicity as such was not a cause.

Getting caught Sharpe and Budd found black offenders were more likely than whites to have been arrested, this was because they commit crimes where victim could identify them e.g. robbery and had been excluded from school or associated with know criminals- factors that raise their visibility to the police.