Crime And Ethnicity

The society tends to attribute certain acts of crime to certain minority groups once they have occurred. The tendency is to blame it on the existing exclusive small ethnic groups and sometimes, rightly so. It is actually felt that those groups are more inclined towards criminal activity through on inherent characteristic found in them exclusively. This feeling is sometimes mutual with the members of the minority groups accepting this label, (Maria, Torres. 2006). This feeling is part perpetuated through the generation to become accepted as a fact. Male youth members of these minority groups are the most likely to branded as criminals.

People will look at them mistrust and suspicion. Any one from that minority group is a criminal and all criminals are from that community. People fall back on past history and prison statistics, which seems to support this notion. In the U. S for instance, out of an overall number of two million prisoners only 0. 6million are white. The black community forms the lion share of those incarcerated. Other groups such as the Latinos and Native American communities also form a large number of those behind bars especially when you consider their population sizes.

These Non-White groups are in constant brushes with the law throughout their lives (www. prison. org). The same scenario is replicated elsewhere in the globe. In this paper, I seek to delve in to this phenomenon studying the various forces that give rise to this notion, whether it is valid and how to deal with it with special reference to the Australian experience. Using the case study Arabic Australians, I examine if the crime has genetic roots or is it an inherent quality found in members of a certain community. Australian population is predominantly White but with several other minority groups.

Amongst these other groups are Arabs of Lebanese origin. They had migrated into Australia when the government relaxed its immigration policy in the 1970s to adopt a concept of Multiculturalism. Most came to seek refuge from the Lebanese Civil War in 1975. Most of them settled in New South Wales around Sydney, the commercial capital of Australia. These Lebanese immigrants were predominantly Muslims and experienced a culture shock in the Christian White Australia. They had a different value system to that of the rest of the society. The rest of society was not so enthusiastic to accept them either.

Their different appearance too made them objects of derision and discrimination. Integration between the two groups was minimal. The Arabs remained in close-knit groups, as their attempts to be accepted were rebuffed. They did not make their acceptance easier as they remained uptight in their culture while showing intolerance to the western way of life. This way they retained their distinctiveness. For official registration purposes the state branded them and other Arabic Australians by their appearance as of ‘Middle Eastern Appearance’. This applied to Arabs of diverse origin all grouped in to one.

The immigrants gave rise to a new generation of Australian born Arabs who continued facing discrimination in various aspects of their life (www. acc. org. au) In school they were easy targets of harassment and ridicule. The girls were even more vulnerable to this taunting because of their mode of dressing. Their headscarves and veils made them stand out. The Arabs student was seen to perform below par and thought to be of lower intelligence. The teachers and school administration showed their preference for white kids not usually volunteers for class activities.

(Potaro, Paola, 2002). The Arabs Australians also felt discriminated in the legal system. They felt that they would not get justice in a system, which had a Christian orientation. Their lack of knowledge of English too made them not so enthusiastic about the other system. It represented a system that they could not understand leave alone trust. They also felt that the media was biased against them. It kept portraying them as savage uncivilized beings. It blew separate incidents to sensationalize them and never failed to make the Arab connection to a crime whenever possible.

Some media personalities also took advantage of the freedom of speech to hit-out at the Arabs (Dunlop Tim. 2007) The media planted and cultivated the stereotype that those Arabs were predisposed to crime. This discrimination resulted in a number negative effects. Tension grew between the Anglo-settler of NSW and the Arabs. It simmered below the surface for years until it reared its ugly head in 2005. This media coverage also puts the police spotlight on this particular group. The police are swayed by media coverage to put this group under surveillance and hence they are arrested more.

The police are more likely to stop and search an Arab driver than a white one. A white traffic offender is likely to get away with a reprimand while an Arab one will face a stiffer penalty. That way their movement is curtailed. The Arabs will also find it hard to get jobs in an economic dominated by Anglo-Australian. Since they are stereotyped as criminals, employers are reluctant to give them jobs leaving them to take up to only jobs that the rest of the society despises. Those are normally low-income manual jobs shunned by the rest of the workforce.

They earn an income, which is not enough to cater for the western lifestyle enjoyed by the rest of the community. Most the Arabs student will also under-perform at school. Their situation calls for special attention due to their tough background but this is not availed. Most develop low self –esteem and turn rebellious. They will show a lack of enthusiasm towards higher education. They are more likely to drop out to take up jobs to support their families. Some of the Arabs sought acceptance by trying to conform to western lifestyle. A few denounce their faith while others retain their faith but do not really practice it.

The biggest group however coalesced to form close-knit groups. Through these groups, they easily internalize criminal label. They exhibited obnoxious behavior often making a nuisance of themselves. Faced by those limitations, the Arab youth who grew up observing their parents face many challenges had to draw strength from one another. They joined up with those of a like mind and interests. These cliques were safe zones where they would be free from ridicule and harassment. It is also possible to face off anyone intent on provoking them (Greame, Butz. 1994).

Through group interactions they adopt the criminal label. They take up anti-social behavior and illegal activity. Street fights, pilferage, muggings and drug abuse become part of their lives. These gangs became a menace in the Cronulla beach. They harassed sunbathers especially women, who they accused of indecent exposure. They were rigid and intolerant to a culture different from the Muslim culture. The bad feelings towards those Arabs youth amongst the rest of the society grew. They too formed their own gangs to counter the perceived Arab threat. It was composed mainly of ‘Surfies’ who worshipped the beach.

The Lebanese gangs referred to as ’ lebs’ attacked and injured three lifeguards based at the Sydney’s Cronulla Beach. This sparked off a huge protest all directed at the whole Arab community indiscriminately. What started out as a peaceful demonstration by a five thousand strong crowd developed into a big melee, with a little inducement of alcohol Men, women and children of Arab origin were harassed, insulted and beaten up. Calls to take back control of the beaches could be heard. Police trying to restrain the crowd were not spared either. They were pelted with bottles and their cars smashed.

The mob surged towards mosques and the police had to move first to seal off these areas. Bottled up hate had finally spilled over to the streets. Racial slurs filled the air. The Lebanese youth gangs were quick to react. Carrying baseball bats and in about 200 vehicles, hundreds of youth rioted in a nearby Maraubra beach later that evening. They smashed cars and attacked motorist. In a campaign dubbed ‘smash and bash’ they vandalized the whole of Rockdale and Maraubra neighborhoods. The riots spread to other neighborhoods. The police here too were on the receiving end as they were continuously attacked. (AAP, 2005)

A round of condemnation from all quarters came in the wake or the riot. Religious leaders both Christian and Muslims and political leaders came out the following day condemning the action of both sides. Meanwhile, a few riots took place on that day but were on a smaller scale. The parliament granted the Police more power to deal with crowd trouble. In days that following days, calm had not returned but there were less serious attacks but were rather isolated incidences. Text messages inciting people to retaliate continued making rounds. While no serious riots took place, the racial tension continued bubbling under the surface.

No quick solutions to this hate campaign seemed to be coming. Meanwhile, a blame game ensued on why it happened. Some Muslims insisting it was bound to happen at some point or another. The opposition leader in NSW, Peter Dobnam blame it on the federal government curtailing the police powers making them unable to clip the wings of Leb gangs. The authorities blamed it on incitement and alcohol abuse. The police kept vigil until an uneasy calm returned a few days later. An anti-racism rally was held at the close of the work in Cronulla beach hoping to bridge the gap between the residents of all races.

( Now realizing that the behaviour of the Lebanese was really a big nuisance to the Anglo Australian resident of NSW a question arises on what disposes these minority groups to behave defiantly. The minority groups differed from the rest of the community right from appearance to their lifestyle. There was a world of different between liberal Christian values of the white community and their conservative Muslim ways. They find the societal values to be repugnant or at best incompatible with their own. This feeling is perpetuated through generations.

The Lebanese felt that the woman’s place is in the kitchen and not on the beaches barely dressed. (Maria, Torres. 2006). Any women who did not obey the Muslim code of conduct became a victim of derision and sexual harassment. The rest of the community does not help matters either. They are reluctant to accept those with a different way of life. They viewed minority groups as primitive and referred to them in demeaning terms. They insisted on the ethnic minority groups downing their ways and faith and taking up their lifestyle. With both sides uncompromisingly set in their ways, tension grows.

They find strength from each other similar appearance and interest and end up coalescing into cliques. When these cliques are formed, they are not usually crime oriented. The members share common values and reinforce each other when interacting with rest of the community. The cliques at first are a form of self-defense against intimidation by others. They have cohesive bonds and undying loyalty. (Collin, Jock et al 2000: 34) Through normal group processes such as peer pressure they develop passionate feelings about certain issues and try to impose them on others. This causes more tension between two groups.

Due to their low stature in life and low income, the minority groups take up criminal behaviors such as theft and drug abuse. This builds on the perception of the rest of the community that the minorities have criminal tendencies. Once the society labels then minority youth groups as criminal, over time they internalize that label and try to live up to the society expectation. They do not try to be accepted anymore but choose to deviate. This develops in to a cycle of crime that starts with labeling then internalization of the label and back further labeling. (Becker. H 1963)

These youth cliques mature in to abrasive gangs with intent to committing crime. They are in constant brushes with the law. They grow in number, as they are seen by the youth as the in-thing compounding the poor relationship between the minority groups and the rest of society. Ethnic minorities are not inclined to crime. It is not an inherent characteristic in them, that is, they are not born criminals. You have to look at them in the context of their station in life. They lack most of luxuries that the society deems as necessary. The society expects them to drive cars, dress well yet the means to achieve these goods are closed to them.

Most of the members of these minority groups are in the low-income bracket. They also have high dependency rates due to their huge families and extended families cohesiveness. (Cuncan, Chris. 1997: 127) This puts pressure on the meager incomes and to achieve certain societal goals, they supplement their incomes through criminal activities. This discrimination is in many aspects of their lives. The minority groups are also discriminated against in the education system. They are not given equal chance at education even in class activities.

The school administration and teachers give these kids a cold shoulder due to their appearance. They feel unwanted and reject and they too reject the system becoming under achievers. They are also under immense pressure from their families to drop out of school and help supplement the families’ incomes. These minorities are also not able to access quality education and higher education due to cost constraints. They join public institution where one negatively socialized. This low academic achievement does not leave them with much choice but to take-up criminal lifestyles. In the labor market, the scales are tipped against them.

Employers give preference to the majority groups in economies predominantly controlled by them (majority group). A person of high academic achievement but of a minority group background will find it harder to get a job than a member of the majority group of the same or even lower academic qualification. Promotions too rarely come their way. A minority group member would have to prove his or her ability twice as hard to earn a promotion than a member of the majority group would. When employment does not come their way, the frustrated minorities give up searching and they are deemed to be lazy.

To survive, crime is an appealing option. (Kelly, M. 2000: 530) The members of minority groups often live in bad neighborhood. They cannot afford decent housing in the better parts of town and end up living in congested crime infested areas. They lack proper facilities and institutions. Insecurity is also high. When a child grows in this environment he or she faces insurmountable challenges to make it out as a responsible citizen. Most will fall prey to gang rings that deal in guns, drugs, gambling, prostitution and other activities of the underworld. Crime is the only culture they grow up knowing.

Their families are unstable and therefore play no role in enhancing positive behavior. They look to role models who have a history of ruthlessness and years of incarceration. Those who try conforming to the rest of the society are harassed and forcibly recruited into the gangs. The minority are stereotyped and labeled as second-class citizens. They are variously referred to as good for nothing or up to no good. This is constantly drummed in to them in schools, streets and especially in the media. Not much is expected of them by society and it is only a matter of time that they live up to that label.

The authorities treat preferentially. The police tend to pay closer attention to them and will apprehend them under any pretext. The legal system too will have acquired the stereotype. A jury is more likely to return a guilty verdict to a member of a minority group than that of a majority group. When a member of the majority group commits a crime it just common crime but when a minority does the same its in their genes. All these factors go on to show that rare has nothing to do with crime. (Olmstead Rose. 1997: 439) Many people will argue that members of those minority groups really are predisposed to crime.

They table statistics from the penitentiary system in multicultural countries line the United States, Australia, United Kingdom and France which all seem to support that notion. The minority groups form fairly large proportion of those in prison relative to their population. (Ditton, J. 2000: 696) Another aspect that acts to support this notion is the fact that people of dominant groups who are also in the low income bracket may not necessary take up criminal behaviour as the minority are likely to do. They will struggle with odd jobs and take up multiple jobs to survive.

The minority group members may also not make any effort towards integrating with the society. Some will refuse to even learn the local language or acquire formal education. This isolates him or her further and no employer will sign them up. They then turn to decry discrimination by employers. Others rigidly vie their culture a superior and the only one the treat those who do not fit their code of conduct badly rest of the society. They simply don’t try to gain acceptance. Looked at from another angle, neighborhood of predominantly minority groups are bad because they make them so.

It is their criminal activities that make these areas insecure. Those domiciled in those areas opt for criminal way of life and glorify what is wrong. Overtime and as now generations come up the inclination to crime and perpetuated. Tying up crime to ethnicity is a historical mistake that needs to be addressed by all parties. We should emphasize on integration to avert the build up of tension between the minority groups and the rest of the society leading violence as it happened in the Cronulla riots. For there to be integration, stereotypes have to be removed which takes a long time.

Fortunately just as crime is not inherited but learnt, so are these stereotypes learnt. There should be emphasis on community togetherness and oneness In this endeavor the education system should aim at giving equal opportunities to student of all backgrounds without favor. School administrations should oversee the integration of the minority student in to the system by meeting their special needs and giving them responsibilities. Class sessions between the students of different background speaking out on various issues affecting them should be held.

These discussions open up their eyes to the other person’s point of view and foster togetherness. (Holladay, Jennifer. 2007). Opinion leader of both minority groups and majority group should play a big role in promoting integration. They should not agitate for anti-social behaviour or incite their people against others. They should preach a message of peace and dialogue. In the Cronulla riots a Muslim leader sheik-Hilali incited the young Lebanese to riot as a popular radio presenter Alan Jones urging white youth so reclaim their beaches.

The media too has role to help in the integration process of minorities. it has an obligation to remain neutral and give balanced reporting. It should avoid sensationalizing stories and creating stereotype (Bradley, A. 1992: 357). Police neutrality should be cultivated. They should also deal firmly with isolated racial cases. Those who incite others should be apprehended. Leveling the playfield in electoral processes should enfranchise the minority should be done. The state should sponsor public campaigns to fight racial tension.

This should be through publications media campaigns worshops, setting up annotative website and organizing interactive activities through these campaigns tolerance and respect for other should be emphasized. References AAP. 2005. Sydney Racial Tension Spreads. Retrieved on 20/09/07 from www. smh. com. au Australian Arabic Council. 2003. Ethnicity and Crime in NSW: Politics Rhetoric and Ethnic Descriptions. Retrieved on 20/09/07 from www. acc. org. au Becker, H. 1963. Outsiders: Studies in Sociology of Deviance. Retrieved on 20/09/07 from faculty. ncwc. edu Bradley, A. W. 1992.

Free Expressions and Acts of Racial Hatred. Public Law. Pp 357 Butz, Greame, 1994. Gangs or Cliques? The magazine for Multicultural and Vietnamese Issues. vol. 2 No. 6 Collins, Jock et al. 2000. Kebabs, Kids, Cops and Crime: Youth Ethnicity and Crime. Pluto Press. Annandale. NSW. Cuncan, Chris, et al 1997. Faces of Hate: Hate Crime in Australia. Hawkins Press. NSW. Ditton, J. 2000. Crime and the City. British Journal of Criminology pp. 692-710 Dunlop, Alan (2007). Alan Jones, Sheik Al-Hilali and David Hicks. Retrieved on 20/09/07 from blogs. news. com. au Holladay, Jennifer. (2000) The ABC of School Integration.

Retrieved on20/09/07 from www. tolerance. org Lehmann, Martin. 2005. Cronulla Riots: Leftwing, Politically Correct Journalists Slag off Aussie Patriotism. Retrieved on 20/ 09/07 from www. Australian-news. com. au Kelly, M. 2000. Inequality and Crime: The Review of Economics and Statistics. Pp. 530- 535 Olmstead, Rose L. 1992 Hate violence: Symptom of Prejudice. William Mitchell Law Review 17, pp. 439 Potaro, Paolo. 2002. Tunnel Vision: Politicizing of Ethnic Crime. Retrieved from muslim. village. net Torres, Maria L. 2006. Mexican Youths Seeking Acceptance. Retrieved on 20/09/07 from findarticle. com