Hate crimes may be influenced by economic competition and even resentment towards a particular group rather than a generalization about a particular group of people. It is the case that hate crimes are a result of prejudice on the part of the offender against the victim of hate crime. In this paper, we argue that the economic strain and the concomitant resentment that may be felt towards certain minority group as the African-Americans in our case here are mostly based on false generalizations (Stewart). This is to mean that most of the reasons that attend the commission of this crime are predicated on the wrong perception and conviction that the African-Americans are to blame for the subsisting adverse economic situation for the whites. Borrowing from Robert Merton’s strain theory of explaining crime, it is the case that due to the capitalistic economic system of the US.
Additionally, the whites are of the view that the African-Americans have taken their opportunities in the job market and also do receive preferential treatment from the government, which should otherwise be theirs. Robert Merton stated that the delinquent behavior emerges from an imbalance of the prescribed goals and the means of reaching that end (Merton). Capitalism has led to several problems such as inequalities in education and income are that make it difficult for the whites to attain their culturally prescribed goals. As a consequence, the violence against the black minorities by the whites is grounded on the wrong assumption and false generalization that the blacks (African-Americans) are responsible for the socio-economic instability by way of appropriating their opportunities (Manatt and Drips).
The topic on hate crimes is very essential and important as exemplified by various scholars and commentators who have broached the subject. Stewart B in his paper, Hate Crimes: Understanding and Addressing the Problem discusses the issue of hate crimes and seeks to explore it and then devise ways of addressing and remedying the problem.Steinberg, Annie, Jane Brooks and Tariq Remtulla in their article"Youth Hate Crimes: Identification, Prevention, and Intervention” tackles the issue of why most of the hate crimes are perpetrated by the youths and then explores the means of identification, prevention and intervention measures.Robert Merton in his book, “Social Theory and Social Structure” expounded his theory of strain theory as a causation of crime while Barbara Perry in her book “Hate Bias and Crime” where she sought to supplement the strain theory by insisting that not all crimes are committed by those that are less economically endowed. She proffers that people get bound to their cultural and ethnic identity and those that fall outside these groups are seen as different and outsiders. Consequently, these groups tend to perpetrate crimes against those that do not belong to their class or identity.
The topic on hate crimes committed by Whites against African-Americans in the United States is connected to two criminological theories namely: the Robert Merton’s strain theory and Barbara Perry’s structured action theory of “doing difference”. In regard to the strain theory in explaining hate crimes, Merton argued that the criminal behavior is a result of a disequilibrium or imbalance caused by the gap between culturally prescribed goals and the means and opportunities of achieving these goals in a legitimate manner. He argued that owing to the capitalistic economic system, as is the case in the US, and the inequalities in education, income and other personal capacities, individuals are unable to attain these goals (Merton). As a result, there is a strain on these individuals as they desire the material possessions so as to be touted as successful. It is in response to this strain to attain success that individuals pursue illegitimate means such as violence against other minority groups so as to gain the material success and the respect they yearn for. The violence or hate crimes against the black minority groups by the whites according to this theory may thus be rooted in the perception that the socio-economic instability faced by the Whites is the fault of the minority black group (Merton). The second theory is that propounded by Barbara Perry of the social construction of difference where she seeks to plug the gap left by Merton’s strain theory (Perry). It is indeed true that not all hate crimes can be attributed to socio-economic disadvantage. This is so especially in the instances where some hate crimes are committed by the most powerful and economically endowed people in the society. Indeed, though most of the offenders are of the lower economic strata, some of them can be employers or even leaders. Perry argued that the difference has been used to construct social hierarchies on the basis of gender, race and class. As such, people get bound to their cultural and ethnic identity owing to the similar characteristics and those who fall outside of this are seen as different and therefore resisted (Perry).
The policy on sexual harassment, racial discrimination and prevention of youth crime is related and relevant to the topic on hate crimes. This is because most of hate crimes are as a result of prejudice against one’s gender, class or race. In addition, most of the hate crimes are perpetrated by the youths and as such, the policy on prevention of youth crime, racial segregation and sexual harassment becomes pertinent. In the main, most hate crimes are committed by the youths who were otherwise law abiding citizens, but harbor a form of hatred and disdain for a particular group of members (Steinberg, Brooks and Remtulla). According to Dr. Poussaint, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, most of the hate crimes are perpetrated by the youths as they have a sense of insecurities, inadequacies. He argues that they thus commit such crimes so as to make others victims, as well as look down on them as this, boosts their ego. Though he does not fully subscribe to the idea that the economic situation is wholly to blame for such crimes where they feel that the African-Americans have taken their jobs by way of affirmative action, he argues that this could be a contributing factor to the perpetration of such crimes (Poussaint).
As evident from the foregoing discussion, it is the case that most of the hate crimes are perpetrated by youths mostly against fellow youths. Further, there is no single theory that can adequately explain the cause of such hate crimes. As a result, various theories have been put forward to explain the cause of these crimes that include the Robert Merton’s strain theory and Barbara’s social construction of difference. The running theme in both theories is that there is usually the recognition of the differences that exist between persons: mainly the offender and the victim. Barbara Perry makes the case that offenders do recognize the difference that exists and thereby treat the other persons as outsiders. Merton, in his strain theory further proffers that the the economic hardships cause a strain and resentment against the minority community in the belief, real or imagined, that the minority are responsible for their economic subjugation.
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