Black and Asian youths have been accused of engaging in criminality and deviance more than their native counterparts. The problem of racism in British modern society is a factor of competing cultures among the various races with the majority of the white people seeking to conquer the minorities (Phillips &Bowling, 2002). The notion of classifying people according to their biological ancestry in a civilized society is to say the least, primitive. Different groups have unique distinctive cultures and appearances which characterize them. White racism is typically ignored since it is the property of the dominant group which identifies it from the actions and beliefs of the other ethnic minorities such as the Blacks and Asians.
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Racism excludes a particular group of people from the public resources, materials and political space to maintain distinct cultural ideologies and contexts apart. Territorial exclusion and ethnic cleansing are explicit manifestations of racism in a given society (Gunter, 2010). Social relations between persons of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds occur within the same economic and political contexts. This illustrates ideological differences that exist among cultures concerning the justice system and criminological perspectives. In essence, deviance and criminality are individualized beyond racial and class differences that exist in society. Disproportionate discrimination of the black and Asian youths by justice and law enforcement agencies in Britain is a product of a multiplicity of factors that range from class and status differentials to racism, gender, family and economic differences.
The notion that people from a particular race or ethnicity are outright criminals is quite farfetched. The biological ancestry of people does not relate to criminality since deviance is acquired through socialization. Black and Asian subcultures are rendered deviant due to the conflict that exists among different races competing for scarce resources, employment, schooling and other social amenities such as hospitals and housing (Webster, 2007). The pressure that accompanies massive immigration of foreigners into Britain from other countries in the world manifests itself in xenophobia-related violence and prejudice. The majority of these foreigners are unskilled and poor condemning them to a peasant lifestyle in informal settlements. Since they are unskilled, chances of obtaining lucrative employment become scarce. Consequently, they are regarded as an underclass doing manual jobs for survival while living in slum areas.
The privileged white population constitutes the main perpetrators of racism. The intersection between race and crime depends on the social and economic disparities that exist in the British society at a given time. Black and Asian youths are predominantly deviant and prone to criminality due to the social inequalities that exist in the society coupled to the punitive justice system which does not treat all races equally (Baird, 2002). Crime is committed by all people in different situations and contexts. Racial discrimination by the justice system combined with labeling of the underclass Blacks and Asian immigrants renders them vulnerable to criminality and social deviance. Racial bias of the minority alien youths based on their Black and Asian ancestry encourages deviance, delinquency and criminality among them.
The complex transitions that confront minority youths suffering from social exclusion in family, schooling and employment facilities into the working-class group promote deviance. Anti-social behavior is generated from the masculine nature of the society keen to maintain racial and class differences. Black and Asian subcultures have led to the proliferation of slum dwellings characterized by rampant unemployment, single-parent families and high dependency on welfare services. The setting is also conducive for crime and deviance to prevail. Exotic cultures are thus regarded as suspect and consequently labeled as deviant as a result of the poor interaction that exists among the different races (Rafter& Gibson, 2006). Black and Asian youths living in abject poverty without hope of a better life in future get trapped in deviance and criminality in order to fend for their lives.
The challenge of raising children as a single parent without a stable income becomes pronounced when racial discrimination and isolation prevails. Black or Asian single mothers, for instance, rely on meager earnings to support their families. Dependency on welfare for financial support worsens the already fragile racial relations. The predominant white race feels aggrieved when subjected to levies meant to support the welfare organizations whose beneficiaries they consider a burden to the society (Phillips &Bowling, 2002). Black and Asian youths having come from unstable socio-political backgrounds and with little hope of prospering in their host country, resort to violent means of earning a living. The environment around slum dwellings is characterized by poor infrastructure and dilapidated social amenities which make it difficult for the impoverished youths to survive.
Representation of British Asian youths concerning violence and religion
There exists a close relationship between religion and violence among Asian youth living in Britain such as the Bangladeshi case. Analysis of the British media also illustrated the moral panic and xenophobia surrounding the strained racial relations between the whites, blacks and Asian nationals (Ball, Cullen& Lilly, 2006). Media and state stereotyping of the black and Asian subcultures are largely associated with “Islamophobia”, a term used to define the fear of radical Muslim extremism and terrorism. The role of the media, government and academia in stereotyping Asian youths with violence and criminality is a major factor in the escalation of deviance in Britain.
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The public perception of Asian youths is corrupted in view of the global terror events such as the September 11 attack in the United States. Asian youths of Muslim origin are regarded as deviant and subsequently arrested by police investigating whatever crime. Pakistani and Bangladeshi youths are considered “folk devils” in the mainstream British society as a result of the isolated cases of their involvement in crime and terror activities (Gunter, 2010). Blanket accusations and impromptu arrests of the Asian youths have not only severed the poor racial relations but also fueled criminality in British society. Asian youths are primarily misunderstood by their government, the justice system, the media and whites as potential criminals looking for an opportunity to strike.
Participation of the youths in crime and social deviance is a direct reaction to the problem of class and racial imbalances (Gibson et al, 2004). The British society is structured in a manner to condemn youths from minority backgrounds as having been brought up in deviant subcultures. The British mainstream society appears preoccupied with erosion of moral values among youths especially those of Black and Asian origin. In essence, the society attaches symbols associated with deviance to them to label them as foreign folk devils and criminals. Statistics of the said youths participating in criminal activities are well documented and studied for the purpose of amplifying the situation politically. Society is therefore consciously informed about the constant disruption of peace by Black and Asian youths contravening the “British way of life”. “The constellation of Blacks, Jews, Liberals, Asians and Muslims living in isolated suburbs is considered a threat to the purity and order of the British society.” The term “Asian” as used here, represents immigrants from distinct nationalities. Subcultures are developed around gender, class and differences in opinion among the various races.
The Asian community was regarded as a “model minority” that cherished legitimate means of earning a living. However, future generations that arose from the previous esteemed Asian community deviated from their traditions as well as norms of the British society. This theory further states that the subsequent generations were characterized by social disorganization and weak families as compared to their ancestors who cherished their culture and propagated proper values in their children (Fletcher, 1998). Asian and Muslim values were later conceived to contradict British values and traditions. The two cultures appear to be racially irreconcilable. The Asian youths find it difficult to identify with either culture in pursuit of their identity.
The conflict that exists between Muslim and Western cultures basically subjects the Asian youths to an identity crisis that further develops into a psychological problem. Traditional values from both cultures should therefore be revised in order to reflect the modern social ideals which cut across the board. Pakistani and Bangladeshi youths are the most unacceptable in Britain due to their orientation with radical Islam. On the other hand, there is substantial acknowledgment of the Indians by the mainstream British society. Religious underpinnings are therefore instrumental in discriminating Muslims from the rest of the society. Black and Asian youths from a Muslim background are culturally alienated and racially labeled with deviance and criminality (Baird, 2002).
Apart from the religious ideology as a distinguishing parameter, it is worth noting that Asians of Indian origin are widely appreciated because of their “active participation in local business and politics”. Indians are therefore preferred during job recruitment to their Asian counterparts. Consequently, Pakistani and Bangladeshi youth continue to experience extreme poverty levels and rampant unemployment in addition to the higher levels of illiteracy. Bangladeshis are considered to be the predominant racial underclass in Britain living in congested shanty households and having the highest unemployment rates among Asian immigrants. The ruling white majority and their Indian partners consider Black and the remainder of the Asian subcultures as a social problem characterized by criminality.
Pakistani and Bangladeshi immigrants are basically wartime refugees from rural backgrounds seeking economic and social opportunities in Britain primarily through career development. The collapse of manufacturing industries in the 1970s forced Black and Asian youths to engage in manual labor in order to survive in the British capitalist economy. This is attributed to their lack of necessary professional qualifications required to obtain white-collar jobs. “Asian criminality and gang formation” is also a product of a developing violent subculture among their youths. This is seen as a depiction of “reactive religious fundamentalism” based on extremist Muslim ideologies.
The emergence of terror as an international crime has subjected Muslims to xenophobia and pronounced religious intolerance throughout Europe. This is also attributed to the challenges posed by globalization. It is apparent that there exists a gang culture among Asian youths which promotes their participation in criminality and social deviance. Muslim culture serves to enhance masculinity amongst its believers at the expense of their women. Marriages are pre-arranged with men being the stakeholders. However, in modern society, this culture of patriarchy and male chauvinism has been exposed to widespread criticism at the international level. Young Muslim men in defense of their culture have sprung up to oppose interference from foreign cultures within their communities (Webster, 2007).
The media has actually highlighted Asian territorial brutality in Britain scaring off the native whites from certain areas of their country. It is often perceived that the Asian youths are reacting to historical injustices leveled against their parents alleged to have suffered from racial harassment to settle in Britain. Young Asians appear to be sympathetic to their Muslim ideologies which seek to shun racial discrimination having been brought up in isolation. The Asian youths are constantly aware of the precarious situation they are brought up in without the hope of a better future. The mainstream British society is not ready to accommodate them leave alone interact with them due to the residual conflict that exists in their cultures.
In retaliation and out of desperation, Asian youths engage in street violence basically to defend their communities from further atrocities connected to racial discrimination and prejudice (Phillips & Bowling, 2002). The violent culture among Asian youth dominates the society instead of the moderate and civilized Asian community interested in earning a living through legitimate means. It is apparent that there exists a sweeping racial discrimination of the Asian community labeled with violence. Even though criminal gangs do exist among Asian youths, there are other groups that are formed for social reasons. These social groupings are transformed into criminal gangs based on the criminal tags that society attaches to them. Asian youths are subsequently arrested and tortured by police without following the due process of the law. This creates hatred among the other youths who gang up to oppose further racial discrimination in their community.
The manner in which the media portrays the Asian youths as deviant and criminal worsens the strained racial relations. The British media has therefore framed Asian youths in bad light further increasing racial tensions by distorting legitimate means of expressing violence such as demonstrations against extra-judicial killings and arrests. The press has participated in the production of inflammatory statements and racist views targeting regions inhabited by Muslims and Asian youths (Gibson et al, 2006). Editorial content has framed Muslim neighborhoods as “no-go zones” and Asian youths as disgruntled criminals lacking the values and morals necessary for their stay in British society. The actions of the media can be understood to emphasize western culture over Muslim traditions which are considered foreign.
The cultural conflict that ensues serves to create a moral panic due to the negative connotations and labels attached to the Asian youths with respect to violent behavior, crime and social deviance. As a result of sustained racial discrimination, Asian youths can be understood to have used violence as a weapon to suppress further injustices of that nature. Media and government have therefore framed legitimate protests by Asian youths against racial discrimination to implement severe penalties on the victims (Fletcher, 1998). That notwithstanding, Asia immigrants disturbed with the poor state of their living conditions and cultural isolation have tried to express their grievances to government to no avail.
The government appears biased towards the interests and perceptions of the white majority at the expense of the other races. This has polarized the Muslim and white communities which are generally separated in all aspects such as housing, education and employment. The polarized cultures exhibited parallel lifestyles with mixed social repercussions. Pronounced racial tensions and prejudice occasioned by police harassment, competition against scarce resources and limited access to lucrative employment disempowered Asian youths. Material deprivation led to poverty which subjected Asian immigrants to deplorable living conditions that interfered with social order (Webster, 2007). Asian youths accused of violence are therefore reacting to substantial social pressure to find gainful employment and decent living in a society keen to isolate them.
On the other hand, the mainstream society expresses their concerns with the poor integration of the Asian immigrants into their culture including the acquisition of English language and British means of wealth creation. The British and Muslim cultures are understood to contradict each other (Rafter& Gibson, 2006). This is the reason why minority communities have not interacted with their white majority for assimilation and integration to occur. Social cohesion between the two rival communities is therefore curtailed. Suspicion prevails under these circumstances with limited chances of reducing the racial tensions of the past in future generations. Government policy is also adamant to accommodate Muslim ideologies which serve to alienate the Asian youths from the national development agenda.
It is therefore important that active citizenship and equal access to wealth and employment opportunities replace traditional one-sided policies. Active citizenship of Asian immigrants should be unconditional away from the compulsory loyalty tag currently attached to it. Muslim culture should also relax their hard-line religious identity in order to promote national integration towards elimination of criminality. Cultural differences can be harmonized if barriers to community integration are lifted through proactive government reforms which should address the economic and social isolation of the marginalized Asian youths (Gunter, 2010). Violence has been used by the Asian youths as a political statement with regard to the alleged racial discrimination by government institutions. It is a reaction to the elite western culture which predominate the other cultures without a substantial appreciation of the contribution of the minorities in national building.
The notion of a deviant cultural minority is a fallacy that increases cultural isolation and criminality. There is need to appreciate the contribution of different cultures in national building towards an integrated approach in fighting criminality. The international backlash against radical Islam is based on the increased participation of Muslim youths in organized terrorist activities against western targets, Britain included. Islam is generally perceived in the British society as the institution of terror which cannot be integrated into the mainstream western culture. Native Britons have been preoccupied for a long time with the idea of Islam being the vehicle through which Asian youths are indoctrinated with criminal and terrorist knowledge. The fear of Islam is therefore a product of complex cultural conflicts among communities regarded as racially irreconcilable (Gibson et al, 2004).
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Misrepresentation by the press cements the extremist perceptions fueling inflammatory opinions between the black, Asian and white subcultures. The native Briton is therefore preoccupied with the stereotypes and assumptions that have been passed over generations through the media. The racial tensions persist when the government compels Muslim communities to comply with anti-terror policies most of which contradict their culture. The government policy is grounded on the premise that the fight against terrorism is a factor of how effective Islamic fundamentalism is thwarted. Migrants of Asian origin are therefore subjected to unfair justice and legal processes. It is common for Asian youths to be arrested without notice and imprisoned without strict adherence to the due process of the law.
It is apparent that the police are taking advantage of the Terrorism Act to arrest Asian youths of Muslim descent under the disguise of aborting a potential terror attack or criminal activity. The combination of impromptu arrests by police and rampant xenophobia renders Asian immigrants susceptible to racial discrimination and prejudice. The reaction of the disadvantaged youths is characterized by both spontaneous and systematic violence against the privileged white citizens in revenge. Islam is an important facet of the religious identity of the accused youths mainly from Pakistan and Bangladesh nationalities (Fletcher, 1998). Religion serves to assert a unique identity among the Asian youths as a substitute to a criminal lifestyle in gangs. Islamic fundamentalism is easily adopted by Asian youths in pursuit of freedom against prolonged oppression, poverty and racial discrimination. It serves to provide an empowering identity that empowers Asian youths with unique consciousness of their culture and circumstances that confront them in their daily lives.
Daily confrontations with the police have also encouraged Asian youths to integrate their Muslim ideologies with British political systems in order to achieve social cohesion. Youths who are severely affected by marginalization and deprivation, appear to shift from their parents’ conservative cultures which they consider compromised (Baird, 2002). The problem of deviance and criminality is therefore a social and cultural product that rests on racial injustices inherent in British society. Periodic confrontation with police has compelled marginalized Asian youths to the temptation of being recruited by terrorist organizations. The pain of living in abject poverty and isolation has therefore propelled Asian youths into reckless behavior characterized by criminality.
British black youths regarded as intrinsically deviant
On the other hand, Black youths are considered primitive creatures by the native whites. The colonial mentalities arising from the previous scramble and partition of Africa are quite visible in the manner in which native Britons treat Blacks of African origin. The majority of the Blacks are descendants of African slaves still being considered as servants and casual workers in factories. Their place in society is therefore reserved in slum dwellings with little access to lucrative social facilities. Like the Asian youths, Blacks experience racial discrimination and deprivation rooted in the primitive ideologies about their poor intelligence quotient and criminal tendencies. Black youths also find themselves caught in between conflicting cultures rooted in slavery (Rafter& Gibson, 2006). Their self-esteem is eroded as they continue to perceive the white race as their superior masters due to their affluent lifestyle.
The white race subdues the blacks as servants and descendants of slaves who may not contribute much to wealth creation and national building. Deviance and criminality among the black youths is a manifestation of their low self-esteem and residual painful memories of their slavery identity. The theory of criminal man explains the relationship that exists between the black and white race with respect to deviance and criminality. It was developed by an Italian criminologist Cesare Lombroso who distinguished criminals from non-criminals by their physical characteristics deriving concepts from physiognomy, psychiatry and social Darwinism (Rafter, 2006). He was particularly keen on the physical characteristics of criminals such as the size of their cranium, shape of their ears and noses as well as their mode of self-expression.
His theory was based on atavism, a concept in criminology which states that criminals constituted a group of evolutionary ‘throwback” to a previous phase in the development of human beings. This therefore positioned criminals as biologically inferior to the fully evolved man with primitive body and brain features. He then classified them as a subspecies to the non-criminal man. This illustrated a shift from classical to positivist criminology. Human physiognomy further supports the concept of physical traits shaping criminal behavior (Gibson, 2004). These theories advanced the study of criminology with phrenology, whereby the size and shape of the head were incorporated in deciding criminal behavior.
Lombroso came up with four categories of criminals
First of all, criminals with born and inherited atavistic traits empowered them to become criminals. The second category is the insane criminal with hereditary traits like epilepsy, fools and drug addicts like alcoholics. There are others who become criminals by taking advantage of situations that presented an opportunity for criminality such as political criminals who commit crimes during a period of political uncertainty like post-poll violence. In addition, other criminals were emotionally incited to crime through strong feelings such as anger, jealousy, and passionate love, among others. Another category was the “criminaloid” that was actually responsible for most of the crimes. The criminaloid possesses almost similar body features as the born criminals except that their skeletal characteristics differ (Rafter, 2006). The criminals also tend to become a criminal at a later age compared to the born criminal and basically graduates from lesser to bigger crimes in the process of growing up.
He stated that criminals were born with an inherited trait to be criminals and this could be recognized by their body defects arising from devolution (Gibson, 2004). While normal people evolve, criminals devolve developing such traits as; “large jaws, protruding jaws, slanting foreheads, elevated cheekbones, compacted or overturned nose, handle-like ears, bulky chins, having large bodies, plump lips, stiff eyed, Spartan beard, extended arms, hairlessness as well as non-sensitivity to feel pain”. He noted that fewer women were criminals whom he suggested could arise from the fact that they are quite inactive, not as clever as men and belonged to a lower position on the evolutionary scale similar to children hence childlike.
He also stated that women who were criminals had unusual body features which included too much hair on their bodies, wrinkles and an abnormal skull. Since they were passive and quite inactive, they were less likely to commit crimes coupled to their intellectual deficiency and lack of criminal schemes. Most of these criminal women were more masculine than their normal counterparts. This created a gender conflict around the whole issue of crime with primitive reasons to support the sexual differences in crime. He tried to base on these findings to establish a mechanism to predict crime as well as offenders with a view of segregating people perceived as potential serious criminals.
He suggested a scientific model of studying people by estimating anthropological, societal and financial information empirically (Gibson, 2004). This was meant to supplement known causes of crime in seeking to reform criminals better. He later advanced these theories with more detailed mathematical studies. He further extended the theory of criminal man by stating the difficulty of rehabilitating criminal offenders with inherited devolutionary tendencies, which strengthened his position against the death sentence. However these theories were not solid enough to convince other scientists especially from its evolutionary standpoint, which tried to explain origin of man from lower forms and not disparities in physical features. The theory was also criticized since it assumed racial differences between whites and blacks with a suggestion that whites were actually superior to their dark criminal counterparts.
The reliability of Lombroso’s empirical research was questionable since the statistical data from his measurements could not be reproduced by other scientists (Rafter, 2006). The theory of criminal man also fell short of having research control groups as well as lack of credible sources of information. The emphasis was just on physical defects associated with criminal activity. There wasn’t a study of the crime along with features such as height, weight and even age factor. He also applied the same criterion in studying both men and women. Many normal individuals were not criminals even though they possessed those physical features the theory had defined for criminals. Some many masculine men and women are law-abiding citizens.
As such, physical characteristics alone do not qualify to make someone a criminal. There are so many masculine women participating in sports and other economic activities like agriculture. The research done by Lombroso in the prisons in order to come up with this theory was never satisfactory since many individuals outside prison who are masculine or have longer arms are not criminals(Webster, 2007). The bigger foreheads, ears and nose, as well as hairy, are not criminal features. The problem with Black and Asian British youth during the past forty years has largely been a result of their deviant and violent subcultures established by pronounced racial discrimination, social injustices and religious fundamentalism.
Gunter, A., 2010. Growing Up Bad? Black Youth, ‘Road’ Culture and Badness in an East London Neighborhood. London: Tufnell Press.
This book underscores importance of studying criminal trends among young black men who have reported engaging in all manner of crimes for the past forty years. Media highlights of escalating crime among black youths have created moral panics in the society. Crimes reported to be on the increase include “rioting, drug-dealing, muggings, knife and gun violence among others”. The book focuses on the young black British men as an isolated group that has suffered the most in poverty, mental illness, unemployment and imprisonment as compared to the other races. It also notes that there are high illiteracy rates among the black youths as a consequence of racial discrimination and social marginalization. Alternative theories and opinions are equally investigated capturing the role of black American and Jamaican pop cultures in promoting deviance among the black British youths. The black youths are stereotyped as deviant and alienated as underachievers and dangerous. Anthony Gunter uses a holistic approach in investigating diverse life experiences manifested by youths in different subcultures, backgrounds and geographical locations with respect to criminality.
Phillips, C. & Bowling, B., 2002. Racism, crime and justice. New York: Longman.
This book explores data from scientific research and documentary accounts in order to illustrate a minority perspective on racism, Crime, justice. The book investigates the role of racism in criminality with respect to police patrols and court proceedings. The nature of crimes committed by minorities and the punishment they get is studied for the purpose of understanding the level of racial discrimination in the criminal justice system. The findings of Lawrence’s inquiry provide the context of these case studies based on race as the underlying theme in criminology.
Webster, C., 2007. Understanding race and crime. New York: McGraw-Hill International.
In this book, Webster explores whether the criminal justice system is racist. In addition, a critical look into the differences that exist between ethnic minorities and majorities with respect to criminality, discrimination is carefully studied. Various case studies are looked into in different parts of the world on issues such as public disorder and the involvement of police and the criminal justice system in both racism and crime.
Baird, N., 2002. Criminal Law. London: Rout ledge.
Ball, R. A. Cullen, F.T. &Lilly, J. R., 2006. Criminological Theory: Context and Consequence. London: SAGE Publications.
Fletcher, P. G., 1998. Basic Concepts of Criminal Law. New York, Oxford University Press US.
Gibson, M. Rafter, H. N, Ferrero, G. and Lombroso, C., 2004. Criminal Woman, the Prostitute, and the Normal Woman. New York: Duke University Press.
Gunter, A., 2010. Growing Up Bad? Black Youth, ‘Road’ Culture and Badness in an East London Neighborhood. London: Tufnell Press.
Phillips, C. & Bowling, B., 2002. Racism, crime and justice. New York: Longman.
Rafter, H. N. & Gibson, M., 2006. Criminal Man. London: Duke University Press.
Webster, C., 2007. Understanding race and crime. New York: McGraw-Hill International.