Public Concern Over Rising Racism Levels Criminology Essay

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Violent racism has become an issue of widespread public concern, because the level of racist violence has increased steeply in recent years. Chahal and Julienne (1999) state that racism has become part of everyday experience in a variety of social situations, not just including in and around the home but also in shops, in the street and at school. There are numerous television programmes and articles in the daily press devoted to describing and understanding the phenomena of racist victimisation and perpetration (Virdee, 1995). The racist perpetration has caused the fundamental human rights such as life, liberty and safety to be violated and it is difficult to provide redress when violations have occurred (Bowling, 1999). However, it is increasingly acknowledged that racist victimisation and perpetration are complex phenomena. This essay will try to critically analyze the nature of racist victimisation, the extent and impact of racial violence and harassment and will argue the emotion of racist offenders.

A racist incident is 'any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person' (Macpherson, 1999: 328), which was provided through Recommendation 12 of the Macpherson report, and this definition has been adopted subsequently by the police and other criminal justice agencies (Chakraborti and Garland, 2009). The notion of 'race' has 'traditionally been used to distinguish between groups on the basis of supposed biological differences' (Chakraborti and Garland, 2009: 19), and the notion of racism is defined in fairly broad terms in the Macpherson report, which consists of 'conduct or words or practices which disadvantage people because of their colour, culture or ethnic origin' (Macpherson, 1999: 20). Racial violence and harassment can take several forms, including the relatively rare but serious incidents of murder and serious assaults, and some more frequent incidents such as racial abuse and threatening behaviour (Virdee, 1995).

Racist victimisation is 'dynamic and in a state of continuous movement and change, rather than static and fixed' (Bowling, 1999: 158). The violent racism as a process, which can capture the continuity between physical violence, threat, and intimidation and it can capture the dynamic of repeated or systematic victimisation (Bowling, 1999). Bowling (1999) also states that the process of racial victimisation involves the relationships between victim and offender, between perpetrators of racial attacks and their families, friends, and community. Accordingly, when the people are attacked, the process of victimisation may extend to their families, friends, and the community. Sometimes the impact may extend to the people in locations far away from where the incident itself occurred such as a racially motivated arson attack or murder (Bowling, 1999).

It would seem that a wide range of different experiences have been defined by different people as racial incidents, and there are very different experiences among the various ethnic and gender groups (Bowling, 1999). Webster (2007) emphasizes that there is considerable variation between places and between social groups in fear of crime and in the levels and types of crime. The North Plaistow Racial Harassment Survey (NPRHS) shows that seven out of ten incidents mentioned by Asian women happened close to home whereas about half of the incidents mentioned by African and Afro-Caribbean men and women took place at, around, or near their home addresses (Bowling, 1999). The NPRHS also found that African and Afro-Caribbean men were the most likely of all ethnic-gender groups to mention threatened or actual property damage, making up 46 per cent of all the cases (Bowling, 1999). Furthermore, the likelihood of theft mentioned by white women was twice as likely as those mentioned by Asian women and four times as likely as those mentioned by African and Afro-Caribbean women (Bowling, 1999). When describing the incidents by white women, a large proportion of cases in which white perpetrators were involved (Bowling, 1999).

Webster's claim that area characteristics are the strongest predictors of perceiving high levels of crime and anti-social behaviour (Webster, 2007). Racist attacks are most likely to occur at the symbolic boundaries or borders of 'colour-coded' areas in terms of ethnic 'ownership', which determines who may or may not enter, producing 'neighbourhood nationalism' (Webster, 2003). These boundaries and areas are not fixed and their effect is to symbolically confirm, hasten and compound ethnic concentration, separation and segregation (Webster, 2003). Perhaps the economic level would influence the perceiving levels of racist incidents. The people who live in poor areas were four times more likely to perceive high levels than those who live in wealthy areas (Webster, 2007). Similarly, Pantazis (2006 as cited in Webster, 2007) shows that crime risks, psychological criminal harm, insecurity, and perceptions of 'disorder' are much greater in poorer and socially excluded areas than in wealthy places. Walker, Spohn and DeLone (2004 as cited in Webster, 2007) point out that the US social structure and issues of the extent of racial and ethnic inequality and the relationship between inequality and crime play an important role in shaping different victimisation and offending rates among ethnic groups.

Violence is a routine resource for solving problems and dealing with conflicts for many racist offenders, and in Ray, Smith and Wastell's research, they implied that most interviewees denied or minimized the element of racist motivation though they usually talked about their violence quite openly and unapologetically (Ray et al., 2003). FitzGerald and Hale (1996) compared racist incidents which reported to the 1988 and 1992 British Crime Surveys and they observed that ethnic minorities are more likely to be victims of crimes and serious threats than whites. Webster (2007) also states that black and minority ethnic groups have higher rates of victimisation than whites, particularly in common assault and robbery, and they are more likely than white people to be worried about burglary, car crime and violent crime because they 'disproportionately live in high-crime urban areas and are younger in their age structure' (Webster, 2007: 51). According to the British Crime Survey 2002/3 and 2003/4, Asians appear to be far more at risk of crime than other ethnic groups and Asians face significantly higher risks of personal crime than whites (Home Office, 2004). Besides that, blacks face significantly greater risks of homicide and are much more likely to be shot than any other group (Home Office, 2004). However, Webster (2007) emphasized that the above findings require caution because young people are generally more at risk of crime than others, they experience a higher rate of everyday violence and crime than adults, and the Asian population is younger than average. Young people, particularly from minority ethnic groups experience the fear of becoming a victim of crime when their victimisation is ignored or not taken seriously by the police and other adults (Webster, 2007). For instance, Webster (2007) suggests that young Asians suffer greater risks of victimisation than any other group from repeated racist violence.

Ray, Smith and Wastell (2004) suggest that the nature of the racism needs to be understood in terms of emotion, that the key emotion is shame which is closely allied to rage and potential violence. Ray et al. (2004) used studies by Scheff and Retzinger as a framework for understanding transcripts of interviews with racist offenders from Greater Manchester, they argued that the offenders' experience of themselves in their relations with Asians was typically that of people in a state of shame (Rezinger, 1991 as cited in Ray et al., 2004), the offenders saw themselves as weak, disregarded, overlooked, unfairly treated; However, the offenders saw their Asian victims as powerful, in control, laughing, successful and arrogant. The violence they conducted represents 'an attempt to re-establish control, to escape from shame into a state of pride' (Ray et al., 2004: 356). Some racist offenders resent South Asians because they believe that Asians' visible difference can guarantee privileged treatment in the distribution of public resources in adulthood (Webster, 1999 as cited in Ray and Smith, 2001). Similarly, Sibbitt (1997) argues that in socially deprived areas, the rates of white racist violence and harassment are very high, the reason may be that a high proportion of the residents who live in those areas have difficulties in social functioning, and they see ethnic minorities as convenient scapegoats for their own sense of failure and resentment.

FitzGerald (2002) argued that the white backlash to the Macpherson Inquiry produced a rise in the underlying level of racial violence and harassment, the existing studies suggest that many of the actual and potential perpetrators of racial violence and harassment come from marginalised groups within the white population. In addition, Ray and Smith (2001) found that in Greater Manchester of UK, racist perpetrators usually lived in predominantly white, socially deprived and marginalized areas on the outskirts of the conurbation, the perpetrators resented south Asians because of their economic success and the apparent solidarity of their family and community ties. The young offenders with criminal convictions have normally low levels of education and few of them have marketable skills, besides that, they often come from unhappy and disrupted family backgrounds, and they construct themselves as the 'real' victims-'as excluded, under-valued, and, by virtue of being white and English, culturally invisible' (Ray and Smith, 2001: 217).

The racist violence rarely conforms to the image of classic hate crime, that the racist offenders are more likely to be involved in other types of violence and criminality, and the racist sentiments are widely shared in offenders' local communities (Ray et al., 2004) even though most of the racist violence is an act of individuals or at most of small groups or gangs (Ray and Smith, 2001). In most of the racist violent incidents by which Ray and Smith studied, they found that the victims were not strangers but acquaintances, even though the acquaintance with victims was often on the basis of purely commercial relations. Furthermore, the offenders' resentments, grievances and underlying racism can be found in violence when there is some perceived provocation or threat to their assumption of superiority, which the perpetrators see as proper to victims (Ray and Smith, 2001). Although the racist violence may be the result of the presence of pathological individuals, multiple issues such as bias, cultures of violence, exclusions and marginalization should be considered in order to reduce the risks of racist victimisation (Ray and Smith, 2001).

When examining the relationship between violent racism and the racist ideologies and some extreme right political parties, the police hold the point that there was little concrete evidence showed that the extreme right were responsible for organizing or orchestrating racist attacks (Bowling, 1999). Moreover, the Association of Chief Police Officer (ACPO) representatives denied that there was any evidence of a link between violent racism and the extreme right, besides that, the direct relationship between racist propaganda and racial incidents was also denied (Bowling, 1999). Although the Home Office endorsed the police view, they found that there was a widespread belief among ethnic minorities that 'racist attacks were instigated or carried out by particular extremist organizations' (Bowling, 1999: 94), and the Home Office noted that 'racist organizations produced a 'climate' in which racial attacks could flourish' (Bowling, 1999: 94). In addition, the Greater London Council (GLC) suggested that racist organizations played an important role in promoting racist violence. One of the GLC Inquiry's 'greatest concerns' reported that a significant proportion of racial harassment cases were due to individuals who were directly inspired or encouraged by racist organizations (GLC, 1984 as cited in Bowling, 1999). Although extreme right-wing groups relied on only a core group of individuals, the fascist activity around football grounds and pop concerts had a much broader impact to young people (GLC, 1984 as cited in Bowling, 1999).

The probability and intensity of racist violence within an area are based on the general level of crime and violence, its degree of ethnic concentration and segregation, and racialised perceptions of relative deprivation (Webster, 2003). The Policy Studies Institute's Fourth National Survey with ethnic minority groups estimates that there were nearly 300,000 racist incidents in England and Wales in a 12-month period covering 1993 and 1994. Of this figure, 80 per cent of the incidents were racist abuse/insults, 14 per cent were property damage and 7 per cent attacks (Virdee, 1997 as cited in Chahal and Julienne, 1999). The number of police-recorded racist incidents had risen to 23,049 in 1999 (Phillips and Bowling, 2002), and it had grown significantly to 59,071 by 2006, a rise of 4 per cent from the previous year (Ministry of Justice, 2008).

It would seem that the racist harassment is both under-estimated and under-reported. The extent of racial violence and harassment is recorded by the official figures which are based on police statistics and the British Crime Survey. FitzGerald (2002) argued that the statistics published by the Home Office could not reflect the real scale or nature of the problem of racist harassment. A study carried out by the Home Office in 1997 implied that few police forces collected detailed figures on the racial incidents they recorded (Maynard and Read, 1997 as cited in FitzGerald, 2002). The Macpherson Inquiry raised awareness of the problems of racial violence and harassment as a symbol of the government's commitment to race equality in general, and it criticised the police that they did not realise 'the impact of less serious, non-crime incidents upon the minority communities' (Macpherson, 1999: 313).The risks of victimisation spread unevenly across areas and social groups, and sometimes they are less discernible in national random victim surveys such as the British Crime Survey (Webster, 2007). For instance, Webster did the local victim survey in 1995, found that Asian and white young people had higher rates of criminal victimisation than evidenced in national victim surveys (Webster, 2007). However, FitzGerald (2002) pointed out that publicity surrounding the Macpherson Inquiry created resentment among some white people, they believed that ethnic minorities were receiving privileged treatment, and several officers reported being taunted by white youths claiming that they no longer dared to search black people.

Virdee (1995) interviewed 74 respondents, including 25 African Caribbeans, 13 Gujaratis, 13 Punjabis, 13 Pakistanis and 10 Bangladeshis who were selected in the spring of 1993 in two locations where they formed a significant and settled population. Virdee (1995) found that about one third of the total respondents had suffered some form of racial violence or harassment in the past twelve months, and 18 of the 74 respondents had been racially abused or threatened in the past 12 months. Moreover, Virdee (1995) demonstrates that almost all the people racially abused or threatened in or near their home or at work or study knew who the perpetrator was before the incident took place whereas none of the respondents who had been racially abused or threatened in the street, on public transport or in a place of entertainment knew the perpetrators, which implies whether the victims were likely to have known the perpetrators beforehand was dependent on the location. All the incidents were rarely reported to the police, including two of the 24 incidents of racial abuse, one in ten about racially attack and five victims of racially motivated damage to property who had reported to the police (Virdee, 1995).

Chakraborti and Garland (2003) conducted the questionnaire survey of rural minority ethnic groups in rural parts of Suffolk (a country in the east of England), they found that 70 per cent of respondents had experienced racial harassment during the previous twelve months, and 11 per cent of respondents had experienced harassment on a 'daily' basis, 31 per cent 'monthly' and 46 per cent 'once a year' or 'very rarely'. They emphasized that racial harassment is a perpetual problem for the minority ethnic groups in Suffolk and during their interviews, they suggested that the frequency of racist victimisation increased in some instances. A number of victims had the feelings of depression and fear, which restricted their freedom in terms of the willingness to go outside (Chakraborti and Garland, 2003).

Racist victimisation has a social and emotional effect on minority ethnic victims (Chahal and Julienne, 1999). Kimber and Cooper (1991) stress that the threat of harassment and violence creates a sense of fear and risk even when there is no direct racist attack. These irrational fears develop into a process of mental mapping whereby people make decisions about what places are safe or which areas should be avoided (Hesse et al., 1992 as cited in Chahal and Julienne, 1999). Webster (2007) asserts that although levels of crime and the risk of becoming a victim of crime have fallen significantly since peaking in the early to mid-1990s in both the USA and the UK, both the British Crime Survey (BCS) and the National Crime Victimisation Survey (NCVS) in the United States show high levels of fear of crime, and high proportions of people still believe the crime rate has risen. FitzGerald and Hale (1996 as cited in FitzGerald, 2002) also pointed out that the racial violence and harassment have a pervasive impact on the quality of life of victims and potential victims, and which is compounded by heightened levels of fear. However, concerning of worrying about burglary, car crime and violent crime has fallen by one third since 2000, and people have relatively more positive perceptions of crime in their local area than nationally (Webster, 2007).

The 1992 British Crime Survey reported that both African Caribbeans and South Asians were more likely than whites to think that racially motivated attacks were a problem in their area (Virdee, 1995). Mirrlees-Black and Aye Maung (1994) noticed that in the 1992 British Crime Survey findings, the term 'fear of crime' is widely used as a convenient shorthand for emotional reactions which result from awareness of the risk of experiencing crime. As Goodey (2005) argues, such feelings may include general and amorphous feelings of vulnerability, insecurity, concern, anxiety and anger. These fears are based on a mixture of mythical and real beliefs about who is a 'typical' offender or victim (Goodey, 2005). In Virdee's study (1995), about one third of the respondents showed they were constrained of their life because of fear of being racially harassed, and the fear of being racially harassed affected the quality of their lives and restricted their social lives.

In conclusion, both racist victimisation and perpetration are complex phenomena. Racist victimisation is dynamic, rather than static and fixed, and the process of victimisation can extend to victims' families, friends and the community, sometimes even to the people who live far away. Different ethnic and gender groups have various experiences about racial incidents. It seems clear that ethnic minorities are more likely to be victims of racist crime. Area characteristics would influence the perceiving levels of racist crime, studies suggest that the people who live in poor and socially excluded areas have higher perceiving levels than those who live in wealthy areas.

Furthermore, most racist offenders tend to deny or minimize their racist motivation, they conduct the violence because of their shame. Racist offenders see the victims as convenient scapegoats for their own sense of failure and resentment in order to escape from shame into a state of pride. Besides racist individuals, some racist organizations play an important role in promoting racist violence even though the police denied the direct relationship between racist organizations and racist harassment.

At last, it would seem that the racist harassment is both under-estimated and under-reported. Very rare racist incidents were reported to the police, even though many respondents had experienced racial harassment. In addition, the racial violence and harassment have a pervasive impact on the quality of life of victims, and they create a sense of fear and risk even when there is no direct racist attack.