Ethnicity and Crime: Paul Gilroy’s ‘Anti-Racist Theory’

Last Updated on January 9, 2019 by Karl Thompson

Below I summarise pp52-3 of Collins’ Sociology AQA A-Level Year 2 Student Book (Chapman, Holborn, Moore and Aiken.) This is their take on what they call ‘Paul Gilroy’s Anti Racist Theory of Crime’ – Interestingly Prof. Gilroy commented on the post saying this is a shallow, oversimplified travesty of what he wrote.

Gilroy’s Anti-Racist Theory of Crime 

Gilroy describes a ‘myth of black criminality’ and attributed statistical differences in recorded criminality between ethnic groups as being due to police stereotyping and racist labelling .

Gilroy also argued that crime amongst Black British ethnic groups was a legacy of the struggle against White dominance in former colonies such as Jamaica. When early migrants came to Britain they faced discrimination and hostility, and drew upon the tradition of anticolonial struggle to develop cultures of resistance against White-dominated authorities and police forces.

While Left Realists such as Lea and Young argued that ome criminal acts such as rioting could involve protest against marginalisation, but Paul Gilroy goes much further, seeing most crime by Black ethnic groups as essentially political and as part of the general resistance to White Rule.

Evaluations of Gilroy’s Anti-Racism Theory

This theory is criticised by Lea and Young (1984) on several grounds:

– First generation immigrants were actually very law-abiding citizens and as such did not resist against the colony of Britain and were less likely to pass this anti-colonial stance to their kids.
– Most crime is against other people of the same ethnic group and so cannot be seen as resistance to racism.
– Like critical criminologists, Lea and Young criticise Gilroy for romanticising the criminals as somehow revolutionary.
– Asian crimes rates are similar or lower than whites, which would mean the police were only racist towards blacks, which is unlikely.
– Most crime is reported to police not uncovered by them so it is difficult to suggest racism within the police itself.

Related Posts 

Gilroy draws on the labelling theory crime, among others.

4 thoughts on “Ethnicity and Crime: Paul Gilroy’s ‘Anti-Racist Theory’”

  1. Here prof. Gilroy captures the essence of my own criticism of A-Level Sociology in one sentence. All I’ve done in this post is to summarise what one of the current A level text books says he said. Fortunately/ Unfortunately (depending on how you see it!) if students include this kind of ‘simplistic and shallow’ summary in a question on ethnicity and crime they won’t be marked down at A level, they’ll be rewarded with analysis marks, because showing any kind of understanding of something like Stuart Hall or Paul Gilroy is pretty advanced at this level. I think I mention in the ‘about’ section of the site that there’s a world of difference between ‘A-Level Sociology’ and ‘Sociology’.

  2. This is a complete travesty of what I actually wrote. Please do not put this in your A-level answers. They ill be heavily marked down for being simplistic and shallow.

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