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Posted: September 12th, 2023

The relationship between race, class, and crime

Using the reading from this week, the lectures, and your own personal knowledge, experience and opinion, discuss the relationship between race, class, and crime. Do you think there are misconceptions about these issues? What impact, if any, does the media have on these issues? Is there a racial/class bias in the criminal justice system? If so, what impact does this have? How and why does this get perpetuated?

The relationship between race, class, and crime is a complex issue with reasonable arguments on multiple sides. While data shows some correlations, many scholars warn against overgeneralization or making claims of direct causation (Alexander, 2020; Forman, 2017). Both implicit and explicit biases can influence perceptions and realities in unintended ways. Allow me to respectfully explore various perspectives on this nuanced topic.
Race, class, and crime are often interconnected in society, but distinguishing between correlation and causation is important. Some research indicates higher crime rates in communities that experience socioeconomic disadvantages like poverty, lack of opportunity, underfunded public services and crumbling infrastructure (Forman, 2017; Western & Pettit, 2010). However, simply belonging to a certain racial or economic group does not predetermine criminal behavior. A person’s choices and moral agency still matter greatly despite environmental influences.
The media plays a role in shaping public views, sometimes promoting an “us vs. them” mentality between racial or social groups (Dixon, 2017). News coverage tends to overrepresent violent crimes, skewing risk perceptions (Gilliam & Iyengar, 2000). This can foster misconceptions, especially when coupled with implicit or unconscious biases we all possess to some degree (Staats, 2016). However, media influence is complex with many variables, and not all effects have been conclusively demonstrated (Dixon, 2008).
Regarding biases in the criminal justice system, research shows people of color tend to face harsher penalties for similar crimes compared to whites (Alexander, 2020; Forman, 2017). For example, Black Americans are incarcerated at over five times the rate of whites (Gramlich, 2020), though multiple factors like poverty, policy choices and cultural dynamics contribute to this disparity (Forman, 2017). Implicit biases may also play a role in areas like pre-trial decisions or police use of force (Staats, 2016). However, others argue the system aims to be impartial and any biases are unintentional and not a result of racism (Heather Mac Donald, 2016).
Overall, there are reasonable arguments on all sides of this complex issue with no definitive consensus. While certain misconceptions exist, the relationships between race, class, crime and the justice system are deeply nuanced with many reasonable perspectives. Continued open-minded and respectful discussion of the available evidence seems most constructive.
Alexander, M. (2020). The new Jim Crow: Mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness. The New Press.
Dixon, T. L. (2017). Good guys are still always in white? Positive change and continued misrepresentation of race and crime on local television news. Communication Research, 44(6), 775–792. https://doi.org/10.1177/0093650215605990
Forman, J. (2017). Locking up our own: Crime and punishment in Black America. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Gilliam, F. D., & Iyengar, S. (2000). Prime suspects: The influence of local television news on the viewing public. American Journal of Political Science, 44(3), 560–573. https://doi.org/10.2307/2669264 custom essay writing service.
Gramlich, J. (2020, June 11). Black imprisonment rate in the U.S. has fallen by a third since 2006. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/05/06/share-of-black-white-hispanic-americans-in-prison-2018-vs-2006/
Heather Mac Donald, T. (2016). The war on cops: How the new attack on law and order makes everyone less safe. Encounter Books.
Staats, C. (2016). Understanding implicit bias: What educators should know. American Educator, 39(4), 29.
Western, B., & Pettit, B. (2010). Incarceration & social inequality. Daedalus, 139(3), 8–19. https://doi.org/10.1162/DAED_a_00019

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