The weekend saw a raft of race and crime stories in the Mail and Telegraph
that sought to further demonise British black communities – suggesting that they are somehow genetically or culturally more predisposed to crime than other communities.
Black men are more likely to be stopped and searched by the police, less likely to be given unconditional bail and more likely to be remanded in custody than white young offenders. Young black people and those of ‘mixed’ ethnicity are likely to receive more punitive sentences than young white people.
Whilst Black groups do suffer disproportionate levels of serious violence,
and that is a cause for concern, white men are hugely over presented in other
serious crime areas such as pedophilia or burglary for example. The point to
make here is that the majority of crime is related to poverty and unemployment – not to race.
The reports in these newspapers lacked both balance and proper contextulisation.
Readers are left with the overwhelming impression that Black communities are inherently criminal – that we are doing nothing to tackle youth violence. It is obvious from the reports that the effects of institutional racism are dismissed and in any event deemed negligible.
These articles were written despite clear evidence to the contrary cited in
authoritative research reports such as the Home Affairs Select Committee Report “Young Black People and the Criminal Justice System” published in
The report states clearly that ‘ The vast majority of young black people are not representedin the criminal justice system. Statistics show, for example, that 85% of young arrestees are white, 6% are black and 3% are Asian….. concern has been expressed that black people’s involvement in crime can be exaggerated or distorted by the media
The Criminalisation and over representation of black people within the UK criminal justice system can in part by explained as a consequence of institutionally racism within the system itself”. The report goes on to say: ‘
Itis important to place young black people’s overrepresentation in perspective: in 84.7% of offences in 2004-05 involving young offenders aged 10-17, the young people involved classified their ethnicity as white.
In 2003-04, 92% of black young people aged 10-17 were not subject to disposals in the youth justice system.
Black people constitute 2.7% of the population aged 10-17, but represent 8.5% of those of that age group arrested in England and Wales. As a group, they are more likely to be stopped and searched by the police, less likely to be given unconditional bail and more likely to be remanded in custody than white young offenders. Young black people and those of ‘mixed’ ethnicity are likely to receive more punitive sentences than young white people.’
Lee Jasper Coordinator for the soon to be launched London Race and Criminal Justice Consortium, (LRCJC) commented: “In general we can see that the overrepresentation of Black people in the crime figures is a reflection of the over representation of police stop and search figures. If you continually go fishing in a salmon pool you can’t expect to catch any other fish”.
The LRCJC (www.leejasper.com) will represent organisations such as Metropolitan Black Police association, Society of Black Lawyers and RESPECT the black and ethnic minority prison staff association.
The black community is desperate to tackle issues of crime in particular serious youth violence. However, the fear has been that Central and local government will focus on enforcement activities at the cost having no overall strategic response and whilst investing no real resources in prevention work.
Black communities feel abandoned in the fight against crime.As for the media their mantra is “If it bleed it leads” and rarely do we get consistent and balanced news coverage.
Equally, any cut backs to youth and crime diversion schemes, along with higher black youth unemployment will only make matters worse. The newly formed LRCJC will be challenging central, regional and local authorities to protect vulnerable communities from public sector cuts that will simply exacerbate racism and social economic exclusion.
It is a great shame that these media outlets only discuss these important issues from such a narrow, negative and biased perspective. Black communities like other want criminal activity stopped. Want our communities don’t want is the criminal stereotyping of a generation.
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