Young Female and Black is a research study of 198 young women and men who attended two comprehensive schools in London in the late 1980s. The main focus of the study is on 62 black women. The book was published in 1992.
Mirza used a variety of research methods, but this is primarily an example of a qualitative research study using observations and interviews with both pupils and parents.
The myth of Underachievement
Mirza argued that there was evidence of racism from some teachers, and that some of the girls felt that teachers had low expectations of them, she argues that these negative labels did not have a negative impact on the girls’ self-esteem.
When asked who they most admired, almost 50% of the girls said themselves, and the black girls in the study achieved better exam results than black boys and white girls in the school, both of which criticise the labelling theory of underachievement.
Types of Teacher
These teachers were ‘overtly racist’. One of them even used the term ‘wog’ when talking to one of the black girls. The girls tried to avoid these teachers as far as possible and strongly rejected their negative opinions of black people.
These teachers had a ‘colour blind’ attitude to ethnic differences. Their attitude was less harmful than that of the overt racists, but did create some problems. For example, they opposed the setting up multi-ethnic working parties because they didn’t believe there was a problem with racism in the school.
These were the teachers who tried to actively develop anti racist teaching strategies in their classrooms, however this could backfire. For example one teacher introduced a role play about a truanting pupil and her social worker, designed to reflect the experience of black pupils. However none of the girls in the class has ever played truant or had a social worker.
The liberal chauvenists
These teachers genuinely wanted to help black students, but their help was often patronizing and counter-productive. For example some teachers insisted black girls did less subjects because they felt they could not cope with a more demanding work load, because of issues like their parents not being able to cope at home.
This later point seems very similar to what Gilborn and Youdell found with banding and streaming!
Despite this, this group of teachers was well respected by the all students and were generally useful in helping identifying the needs of black girls.
Ineffective Teachers and Alternative Strategies
Most of the teachers were genuinley concerned with helping the black girls achieve a decent education, however, most failed to so and negative labelling made if difficult for the girls to realise their full potential.
Despite this, the girls were committed to academic success, but felt it necessary to avoid asking for help from most teachers, which was detrimental to their success.
This is an interesting study that criticises the labelling theory of educational acheivement – the girls did not accept their negative labels from their teachers and had positive self-esteem.
However, the end result was that still failed to reach their full potential because their only coping strategy amidst overt racism and negative labelling was to avoid teachers as far as possible and effectively study by themselves, meaning they were still disadvantaged in education.
Adapted from Harlambos and Holborn (2013) Sociology Themes and Perspectives, edition 8.
This study demonstrates how marketisation polices and racialised banding and streaming disadvantage black students in education.
Gilborn and Youdell (2000, 2001) studied two London Comprehensive schools (which they called Taylor and Clough) over two years, focussing on Key Stage 4 (ages 14-16) and GCSE results.
They used a mixed methods approach using classroom observation, interviews and the analysis of secondary documents.
Black students underachieving compared to white students
Gilborn and Youdell noted that in both schools, white students where achieving twice as many good passes (A-C) as white students.
Differential educational achievement by ethnicity was even starker when they compared those achieving a grade C or above in Maths, English and Science Subjects. In Clough school, 18% of white students achieved this, but only 4% of black students. In Taylor school, 37% of students managed it, but 0% of black students!!!
GCSE Tiers and and Educational Triage
Gilborn and Youdell believe that the introduction of tiers at GCSE was the main underlying reason for the ethnic differences in achievement outlined above.
Different GCSE tiers meant that students sat different papers based on their perceived ability – higher ability students got harder papers, which would allow them the opportunity to achieve an A, while lower ability students sat an easier exam paper, where the maximum grade they could achieve was a C.
14-16 education in both schools was organised through banding and streaming: students were put in the top bands if teachers believed they had the ability to sit the higher tier, more difficult exam paper, but restricted to the lower bands if it was thought their maximum potential was a C grade.
Gilborn and Youdell further argued that the schools operate a ‘triage’ system based on the perceived ability of the students.
Triage is a military-medical term which describes how medical treatment for wounded soldiers is rationed:
Those who need urgent treatment to survive are prioritized
Those with less urgent, non life threatening needs are dealt with later
Hopeless cases are left to die
Educational Triage works along similar lines, with schools rationing education based on the perceived chances of a student gaining five good (A-C) GCSEs.
Borderline students who could get 5 good GCSEs but need help to do so are prioritized.
More able students who will probably get 5 good GCSEs anyway are dealt with as necessary
Hopeless cases are written off.
Gilborn and Youdell believed that teachers were not intentionally racist, in fact most of them were committed to equality of opportunity.
However, they also found that teachers tended to have lower expectations of black students compared to white students, which resulted in them being put in the lower sets, and written off as having no hope of ever achieving five good GCSE grades.
In Clough School for example, 29% of white students but 38% of black students where written off into the lower sets.
One of the reasons for lower expectations was because teachers often believed black students had a harder home life with higher poverty levels and high rates of absent fathers, making studying at home difficult, hence they often judged that black students would be less able to cope with the higher levels of work demanded of being put into higher tiers.
Gilborn and Youdell also found that teachers expected to have more discipline problems with black students and that ‘control and punishment’ should be given a higher priority than ‘academic concerns’.
When interviewed the black students themselves felt discriminated against tended to believe that their entry into low sets and lower tiered papers was not warranted based on their academic performance.
However, if black students questioned their low predicted grades or why they were in a lower set this would be seen as a challenge or a threat to authority rather than a legitimate councern.
Conclusions/ evaluations and relevance to A-level sociology
This is a useful study to show how the macro (marketisation policy) and micro (teacher labelling ) aspects of education work together to disadvantage black students.
However, given the current trends in educational achievement, with black Caribbean students catching up with white students, I wonder how relevant this is today.
I also have to wonder how representative these schools were. To have no black students in one of those schools achieving a grade C in English, Maths or Science, that has to be extremely rare?
Adapted from Harlambos and Holborn (2013) Sociology Themes and Perspectives, edition 8.
This was a short online survey (7-8 minutes) which was completed by just over 1000 students. Ethnic minorities were deliberately over-represented to boost the sample size of some of the smaller sub groups (roughly 50-50 white to ethnic minority sampling).
The survey reports that:
Just over one in ten of all students (13%) had experienced racial harassment since starting their course.
Around a quarter of students from an ethnic minority background (24%) had experienced racial harassment, compared to 9% of White students.
Men were twice as likely as women to have experienced racial harassment (16% and 8% respectively).
The main types of harassment experienced
Only 33% of cases reported
The report notes that the main reason for not reporting (cited in 44% of cases) was that the victims had no confidence that the matter would be dealt with effectively.
Survey of Universities
The EHRC’s survey of universities reveals that they receive very few complaints of racial harassment from either students or staff. The report notes that:
“Institutions received an average of 2.3 complaints of racial harassment of staff and 3.6 complaints of racial harassment of students between the start of the 2015/16 academic year and January 2019.
This equates to roughly one complaint for every 1,850 university employees and one complaint for every 4,100 students since the start of the 2015/16 academic year.”
Main reason for reporting racial harassment
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the main type of harassment reported is verbal…
Confidence levels in the reporting figures.
56% of staff are confident that the above figures are accurate, slightly lower for students
Outcomes of reports for harassment
Less than 40% of cases for students, and only 17% for staff result in some kind of redress fro the victim…
A few problems with the methodology of this study…
It’s not clear how the students were sampled (it doesn’t say in the report) – this may be a self selecting sample – students who have experienced racism are maybe more likely to take part.
There’s a lot of problems with subjectivity over definitions of terms, and whether some of the incidents being reported are actual harassment. Students reporting that they’ve been eluded from events on racial grounds for example – it’s very difficult to prove this is because of race, and I’m fairly sure it doesn’t count as harassment.
According to students in England’s universities, the experience of racial harassment is common place, with 13%, or roughly 1 out of every 7 students having been a victim of some sort of unfair treatment on the basis of race.
If we look at just ethnic minority students, 24% believe they have been a victim of racial harassment.
However, the universities seem to be largely oblivious to this – they only record 1 incident per 4000 students, which is so far away from the stated figures that the students themselves.
Maybe more worryingly 55% of universities think their own recordings are accurate. I think we can at least conclude from the above survey of students that this is something they may need to investigate!
Finally, if 33% of cases of harassment are being reported to universities, they are certainly not being recorded, again something which seems to suggest that universities are ignoring the issue!
Find out more
You could investigate the above reports for yourself, and even check out the qualitative findings if you like!
Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) children underachieve significantly compared to students from all other ethnic backgrounds (source for graphic below):
The most obvious explanation is to look at their poor attendance rates. Gypsy and Roma and Traveller (GRT) children have much higher absence rates than children from other ethnic groups: 13% and 18.8% respectively.
However, Professor Kalwant Bhopal, from the Center for Research in Race and Education at Birmingham university has conducted research with Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) children and cites two main reasons for poor attendance and high drop out rates:
Firstly they they don’t feel represented in the school curriculum
Secondly that they have experienced racism in mainstream schools
Not feeling included in the school curriculum
Parents felt that the curriculum did not adequately represent their unique histories, they felt that they were effectively excluded, and that the curriculum wasn’t really for them.
They also felt suspicious of sex education being included in the curriculum – in their communities, this is something that is done within the family rather than talked about in public.
Finally, simple activities where children are asked to talk about their home lives can make GRT children feel very different very quickly. Asking a child to draw a picture of their home-life, for example can lead to most children drawing pictures of homes and gardens, which is different to what GRT children are going to draw.
In short, it sounds like children are experiencing the curriculum as ‘ethnocentric’!
Being victims of discrimination and racism
Parents and pupils claimed that they had experienced racism from both children and teachers within schools, however, when they reported incidents of racism this tended not to be taken seriously as they were white.
GRT parents were also very sensitive to stereotypes surrounding the GRT community.
Funding cuts to Traveller services as a possible barrier to maintaining attendance levels of GRT children.
Having said all of the above, times are changing. Younger GRT parents are much more pro-school than older parents, and much more likely to work with.
This classic ethnographic study suggests that teacher stereotypes and labelling have a negative impact on Asian and Black Caribbean students in primary schools
This classic ethnographic study of four inner city primary schools suggests that the teacher labeling of ethnic minorities leads to them having a more negative experience of school than white children.
The study took place In 1988-1989, and was published in 192. The main research methods included classroom observations and interviews with both school staff (teachers, managers and support staff) and the parents of some students.
The study involved researching almost 1000 students, 57 staff and 38 parents.
Wright’s main conclusion was that although the majority of staff seemed genuinely committed to the ideals of treating students from different ethnic background equally, in practice there was discrimination within the classroom.
Wright found that Asian students were often excluded from classroom discussions because teachers thought they had a poor grasp of the English language. When teachers did involve Asian students they often used simplistic language.
Asian girls seemed invisible to teachers and they received less attention from teachers than other students. Teachers often showed insensitivity towards their cultural norms such as disapproving when Asian girls wanted to maintain privacy in PE when getting changed.
She cites one example when a teacher was handing out permission letters for a school trip saying to the Asian girls: ‘I suppose we’l have problems with you girls. Is it worth me giving you a letter, because your parents don’t allow you be be away from home overnight’?
Wright concluded that such stereotypical comments from teachers resulted in other students becoming hostile to Asian students and the Asian students becoming isolated.
It also led to the Asian students becoming more ambivalent towards school. For example, when the school introduced a celebration of Asian culture into the curriculum while Asian students did express some pride in having their culture recognized, they also felt concerned that this might lead to more teasing and harassment from white children.
Teachers did, however, expect Asian students to be academically successful.
Black Caribbeans in Primary Schools
Teachers expected Black Caribbean students to be poorly behaved, and they expected that they would have to be punished as a result. Teachers were also insensitive to the fact that many students would have been victims of racism.
Wright cites the example in one class of a student called Marcus who was frequently criticized for shouting out the right answers to questions, while white students were not.
Black Caribbean students received a disproportionate amount of teachers negative attention. Compared to white students whose behaviour was the same they were more likely to be:
sent out of the class
sent to the head teacher
have privileges removed.
Trivializing Ethnic Minority Cultures
Teachers often mispronounced words or names related to minority ethnic groups, causing white students to laugh and embarrassment to ethnic minority children. According to Wright this situation made ‘minority ethnic values and culture appear exotic, novel, unimportant, esoteric or difficult’.
Racism from White Students
Minority ethnic students also experienced racism from other students which made their life even more difficult. White children often refused to play with Asian children and frequently subjected them to name calling and threatening behavior. Both Asian and Black Caribbean children had to suffer intimidation, rejection and occasional physical assault.
Wright does point out that all of the above disadvantaging of ethnic minority students is unintentional. Schools and teachers do appear genuinely committed to the values of equality and celebrating multiculturalism, they’re just very bad at putting these into practice and their actions have the opposite effect!
Wright believes that some Black children are disadvantaged as a result of their negative experiences in primary school, and this holds them back at later stages of their school career.
Evaluation of the study
The study doesn’t explain why Black Caribbean are held back by negative experiences in primary school when this doesn’t seem to affect the later achievement of Asian children as badly.
The study has been critizied for portrayign ethnic minority students as the passive victims of racism. In contrast, studies by Mirza and Mac An Ghail see students as responding much more actively (and in much more diverse ways) to racism in schools.
Maybe obviously, the date! This is from the late 1980s!
Adapted from Harlambos and Holborn (2013) Sociology Themes and Perspectives, edition 8.
Based on available research evidence I would conclude that schools are not institutionally racist
One sociological explanation for differences in educational achievement by ethnicity is that schools are institutionally racist.
This means that the school system as a whole is racist, or that schools are organised in such a way that children from ethnic minority backgrounds are systematically disadvantaged in education compared to white children.
If schools are institutionally racist then we should find evidence of racism at all levels of school organisation – both in the way that head teachers run schools and the way in which teachers interact with pupils. We might also expect to find evidence of racism in government policies (or lack of them) and regulation.(OFSTED).
What might institutional racism in schools look like?
There are numerous places we might look to investigate whether schools are racist, for example:
The curriculum might be ethnocentric – the way some subjects are taught or the way the school year and holidays are organised may make children from some ethnic backgrounds not feel included.
We could look at school exclusion policies to see if the rules on behaviour and exclusion are biased against the cultural practices of students from particular ethnic backgrounds.
We might look at how effectively schools deal with issues of racism in school – do the victims get effective redress, or is racism just ignored?
We could look at teacher stereotypes and labelling, to see if teachers en-mass have different expectations of different ethnic groups and/ or treat pupils differently based on their ethnicity.
We can look at banding and streaming, to see if students from minority ethnic backgrounds are over-represented in the lower sets.
Below I summarise some recent research evidence which may suggest that schools are institutionally racist…
A disproportionate number of GRT and Black Caribbean students are excluded from schools
Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) children are 5 times more likely to be excluded from school than white children, while Black Caribbean and Mixed White and Black Caribbean students are three times more likely than white children.
I’ve included the temporary exclusion rates below as you can see the difference (you can’t really see the difference with permanent exclusions because the percentages are too small to really show up).
Whether or not these particular ethnic minority students are being excluded because of institutional racism is open to interpretation, and is something that needs to be investigated further. There is certainly qualitative research evidence (see below) that both groups feel discriminated against in the school system.
Schools punish Black Caribbean Pupils for Hair Styles and ‘Kissing Teeth’
Campaign Group ‘No More Exclusions’ argue that schools with strict exclusion policies are unfairly punishing Black Caribbean pupils for having different cultural norms to pupils from other ethnic backgrounds.
They cite evidence of Caribbean girls having been temporarily excluded for having braids in their hair, while other students have been sanctioned for ‘kissing teeth’, a practice mostly associated with Black students.
Such exclusions are mainly being given out by Academies with strict ‘zero tolerance rules on student behaviour, but according to David Gilborn there is a problem of discrimination when black Caribbean students are being disproportionately sanctioned as a result.
In defense of this policy, Katharine Birbalsingh, head of Michaela Community School in London, which enforces very strict rules on behaviour, argues that we should expect the same standards of behaviour from all students, and that Black students know that ‘kissing teeth’ is rude, and so should be punished for it.
Source: The Independent (no date provided, just lots of adverts, but it must be from late 2019 as it links back to a previous article from October 2019. )
Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children feel excluded from mainstream education
Professor Kalwant Bhopal has conducted research with GRT children and found that they don’t feel represented in the school curriculum: parents believed that their histories were not adequately represented, and were uncomfortable with sex education being done in school, as this was something usually done within the family in their culture. In short, it sounds as if they are experiencing the mainstream school curriculum as being ethnocentric.
Parents and pupils also claimed that they had experienced racism from both children and teachers within schools, however, when they reported incidents of racism this tended not to be taken seriously as they were white.
Source: Find out more details at this blog post here.
Racist Incidents In Schools Are Mainly Dealt with by Fixed Period Exclusions
According to a recent Guardian article (September 2019), Hate Crimes in schools rose 120% between the years 2015 and 2018. There were 1987 hate crimes recorded by the police in 2018, of which 70% were recorded as being racist. This means that approximately 1500 racist incidents occurred in schools which were deemed serious enough to warrant police involvement.
Schools handed out 4500 fixed term exclusions for racist abuse in 2017/18, but only 13 permanent exclusions.
If the under-reporting rate is similar for children as it is for adults and if most of these racist crimes aren’t ‘very serious’ then it seems that schools are doing a pretty good job at dealing with Racism, even if they are not always involving the police. This certainly seems to be backed up by the case study below…
Case Study 1: How One School Dealt with its problem of racism:
Some pupils do experience racist abuse from other pupils. One example is the case study of eight year old Nai’m, a boy who moved to from Bermuda to Britain with his mother in 2017, who was a victim of at least five racist incidents in a year. (article link from January 2020)/
His mother was contacted by the school when one student, apparently his friend, called him a ‘black midget’. Another pupil told Niam’h that his parents had told him he wasn’t allowed to talk to black or brown people. Niam’h plays football for his local professional club and says a lot of racist name calling occurs on the football field.
Besides Niam’h being a victim staff at the school where this incident happened (The Lawrence Community Trust Primary School) had also overheard racist comments from other students – such as ‘go back to your own country’ being directed at ethnic minority students and discussion about skin colour between students.
The school seems to have taken measures to address this problem with some of the racist attitudes being verbalized by some students by taking the following actions:
they seem to have excluded at least one student
they encouraged Niam’h to give a special assembly on Bermuda
They called in Anthony Walker Charity to deliver a presentation to students on Racism
Conclusion: Are schools ‘institutionally racist’?
The above is only a small selection of evidence, but based on what I’ve found I’ve got to conclude that they are not.
a look at how GCSE, A-level and degree results vary by ethnic group in England and Wales.
The Department for Education makes it very easy to access statistics on educational achievement. Below I summarise some of the recent trends in educational achievement in England and Wales by ethnicity and offer some commentary on what I think needs explaining, and some thoughts on the limitations of these statistics
Average attainment 8 Score by Ethnic group 2018
Attainment 8 is a way of representing all GCSE results as a single percentage!
The average score for all ethnic groups together was 46.5/90. It’s no surprise to find this is very close to the ‘White British group as White British children still make up the vast majority of school children.
To my mind the headline figures from the above statistics are as follows
White, Pakistani and Black African children have results very close to the national average of 46.5, and Bangladeshi children achieved 3% higher. All of these figures are quite close together and so nothing really needs explaining for these broad groups.
Chinese children achieve 18% higher than the national average
Indian children 10% higher
Black Caribbean children underachieve by about 7% points
Irish Traveler and Gypsy Roma children have the worst underacheivement levels with 18% and 22% respectively.
So what needs explaining from the above is why Chinese and Indian children do so well, and why Black Carribean children underachieve, and why Irish traveler and Gypsy Roma children do so badly.
In terms of impact of research it’s probably worth focusing on Chinese, Indian and Black Caribbean children because there are many more of these than of the last two ethnic groups.
A final point to note about these statistics is that it doesn’t seem useful to lump together ‘Black’ and Asian’ students because there are SIGNIFICANT differences in the achievement rates within these groups.
Educational Achievement (attainment 8) by Free School Meals and Ethnicity
If we look at GCSE results by free school meal eligibility (roughly the poorest sixth of children) we see that ethnicity still has an independent effect on achievement – the pattern is broadly the same as in the chart above, but with the following two differences:
No free school meal children (roughly the wealthiest 5/6ths of children) move closer together slightly.
For the FSM groups, white and mixed children are now the lowest achievers, suggesting that poor white and mixed kids do comparatively worse than poor kids from all other ethnic groups.
NB – I think the DFE here is doing a cunning job of disguising the fact that ‘income’ has a larger affect on results than ethnicity – we are seeing here the poorest 1/6th (FSM) compared to the richest 5/6ths (No FSM). If we were to stretch this out and compare just the poorest 1/6th (which we’ve got) to the richest 1/6th my guess would be that you’d find very similar levels of achievement across what would be the upper middle classes for all ethnic groups.
Statistics on Participation in Further Education
This demonstrates a long standing trend – that ethnic minorities (Black and Asian) students are more likely to carry on into further education compared to white students. This should mean that you’ll see a higher proportion of white kids starting work based apprenticeships.
NB – making comparisons to the overall population is a bit misleading as the age profile for ethnic minorities tends to be younger.
Students achieving at least 3 As at A-level
The overall average is 12.9%.
These are quite interesting.
Huge ‘over-achievement’ by Chinese kids – 22.5%
Indian kids do slightly better than average at 15%
Signficant underachievement for Pakistani and Bangladeshi kids – around 7%
Terrible underachievement for Black African and Caribbean kids at 5.6% and 3.5% respectively.
The source notes that the Irish Traveler population is only 7 people, so one can’t generalize, still, at least it busts a few stereotypes!
These stats show something of an exaggeration of what we saw at GCSE.
I put these stats in the ‘interesting but not that useful’ category – I’d rather see the percentages for high grades or A-C grades to make these a bit more representative.
Degree results by ethnicity
Surprisingly, we see white students gaining significant ground on ethnic minority students with 30.9% of white students gaining a first class degree (*).
Black students in comparison come crashing down to just 14% of first class degrees.
These kind of differences – from similar GCSE results for Black and White students to such different A-level and degree results need further investigation.
(1)The education statistics above form part of the government’s Ethnicity Facts and Figures series, you can check out a wider range of statistical evidence on ethnicity and life chances by clicking here. (As always, remember to be critical of the limitations of these statistics!).
(*) WTF – 30% – sorry kids, but a lot of those first class degrees are probably down to grade inflation, which in turn is probably down to the fact that students are now paying £30 K for yer for their degrees.
How does your social class background, your gender and your ethnicity influence your chances of getting into university?
There are still huge variations in the types of student who make it to university, if we analyse the Department for Education’s Higher Education data by ‘Free School Meals’ (a proxy for social class), gender and ethnicity. This update should be of clear relevant to the education module within A-level sociology.
We can see from the table above that there are stark differences by pupil characteristics.
82% of non Free School Meal Chinese girls make it to university, compared to only 2% of girls of Free-School Meal Traveler of Irish Heritage background.
The above chart is very effective in showing the ethnic differences in university students, and with some interesting variations by FSM status – Black African FSM girls seem to do particular well, for example.
It’s also interesting to note that ‘White British’ students come very near the bottom of the table, with figures of around 40% HE participation for non FSM students, but only around 20 average for FSM White British pupils. The reason for singling out White students here is that the majority of pupils are white, so these figures are going to have most impact on the national average statistics.
The University FSM gap
There is still an 18.6% gap in Higher Education participation by Free School Meal status, this has decline by almost 1.5% points in the last decade, but this is slow progress!
The University Gender Gap
TBH I’m somewhat surprised to see the gender gap continuing apace, and it seems to be a steady increase year on year!
Other Higher Education inequalities
The latest report (see link below) also highlights inequalities by region (the biggest gap is in the South East, the smallest in London) and by Special Educational Need. See below for more details!
It also looks at the differences for ‘high tariff’ universities (the ones which ask for higher grades) which show starker differences.
Widening Participation Targets
The Office for Students has been campaigning to get universities to widen participation by reducing the above gaps. Most universities have in fact pledged to try and half some of these gaps by 2025 for example – if they succeed this would mean only a 10% gap between FSM and non FSM pupils.
However, this would mean fewer middle class students getting into university, assuming that more places are not created.
‘Any criminal offence which is perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice towards someone based on a personal characteristic.’ (Hate Crime, England and Wales, 2018-19).
There are five main characteristics which the police monitor…..
race or ethnicity
religion or beliefs
However this is not an exhaustive list and hate crimes can also be committed on the basis of age or gender, and there are calls to include misogyny (hatred of women) as a hate crime.
Hate crimes typically include any of the following acts motivated by ‘hatred’ against any of the above characteristics….
Assault with or without injury
Causing fear, alarm or distress
All of these crimes can also be committed in general, but if a victim feels they were motivated by hatred of their religion or gender identity etc. then the police must record the act as a hate crime.
Trends in Hate Crime
Trends in hate crime vary significantly depending on where you get your data…
Police recorded Hate Crime reports that there were 103,379 Hate Crimes in England and Wales in 2018/19, an increase of 50% over the last five years:
However, the 2018-19 Crime Survey for England and Wales shows a decline in Hate Crime the estimated number of hate crime incidents experienced by adults aged 16 has fell by 40 percent from 307,000 in the combined 2007/08 and 2008/09 surveys to 184,000 in the combined 2015/16, 2016/17 and 2017/18 surveys.
Thus it’s possibly best to reject the Police Recorded Crime Stats as being invalid as a measurement of the total amount of Hate Crime committed, given that around 50% of CSEW Hate Crimes are not picked up by the police.
Sociological Perspectives on Hate Crime
Many of the earlier perspectives seem pretty ineffective at explaining this type of crime. You’d probably have a hard time trying to apply Functionalism, for example: by definition these crimes are divisive, and a reflection of conflict in society, rather than social integration, and it’s hard to see how this particular type of crime could be regarded as functional for society or in any way positive.
Similarly with other consensus theories: there’s little evidence that a breakdown of social control, a strain in society, or of subcultures being significant causal factors (at least no more than with any other type of crime) of hate crime… many of these crimes are committed by lone individuals.
It’s possible to apply Interactionism to help understand religiously motivated crime motivated by Islamophobia, given the general negative press coverage of Islam, focussing mainly on infrequent terror attacks when they happen. However, this doesn’t explain hate-crimes agains other religions or minority groups. There’s hardly a moral panic against the LGBT community for example!
Rational Choice Theory (from Right Realism) could partially explain hate crime – possibly some of the perpetrators feel as if there’s little chance of them being caught harassing their victims because the ‘general public sentiment’ is on their side, so they won’t be reported.
This does seem to be a very postmodern crime – in that it’s a negative response to the increased visibility of minority groups and the increase in Diversity in British culture in recent years, although this is a very general level of theoretical explanation.
Possibly hate crime is a reaction to the increased relative deprivation and a feeling of marginalisation experienced by the perpetrators? Maybe they feel as if everything ‘diverse’ and ‘minority’ is being celebrated and has a place in British Culture but that more traditional British culture now has no place? So maybe there’s a possible application of Left Realism to be made here.
Hate Crime is a difficult crime to understand. It seems that many of the perspectives simply don’t apply to it, and those that do only seem to apply at the most general level.
So maybe this is a type of crime that defies sociological explanation?
NB – there may be quite a lot of it, but remember that if you take the CSEW stats, hate crime is actually going down, while the police seem to be getting better at reporting it, so whatever the causes, maybe it’s not all bad?!?
Van Dijk (1991) conducted content analysis of tens of thousands of news items across the world over several decades and found that representations of black people could be categorised into three stereotypically negative types of news:
Ethnic minorities as criminals
Ethnic minorities as a threat
Ethnic minorities as unimportant.
Minority groups as criminals
Wayne et al (2007) found that nearly 50% of news stories concerning young black people dealt with them committing crime.
Cushion et al analysed Sunday newspapers, nightly television news and radio news over a 16 week period in 2008-9 and found that black young men and boys were regularly associated with negative news values – nearly 70% of stories were related to crime, especially violent gang crime.
They further pointed out that black crime is often represented as senseless or as motivated by gang rivalries, which little discussion of the broader social and economic context.
Back (2002) conducted discourse analysis of inner-city race disturbances and argued that the media tends to label them as riots, which implies they are irrational and conjures up images of rampaging mobs, which in turn justifies a harsh clampdown by the police.
There is little consideration given to the view that such disturbances may be the result of legitimate concerns, such as responses to police and societal racism, which need to be taken seriously.
Minority groups as a threat
In recent years media moral panics have been constructed around:
Immigrants, who are seen as a threat in terms of their numbers and impact on jobs and welfare services.
Refugees and Asylum seekers – analysis from the ICAR in 2005 noted that asylum seekers were often portrayed as being a threat to British social cohesion and national identity, with such people often blamed for social unrest.
Muslims – who are often portrayed as the ‘enemy within’
Moor et al (2008) found that between 2000 and 2008 over a third of stories focused on terrorism, and a third focused on the differences between Muslim communities and British society, while stories of Muslims as victims of crime were fairly rare.
They concluded there were four negative media messages about Muslims:
Islam as dangerous and irrational
Multiculuralism as allowing muslims to spread their message
Clash of civlisations, with Islam being presented as intolerant, oppressive and misogynistic.
Islam as a threat to the British way of life, with Sharia law.
Amelie et al (2007) focused on coverage of veiling as an Islamic practice, and found that media coverage tended to present this is a patriarchal oppressive practice, with little coverage focusing on the wearing of the veil as a choice.
Minority Groups as Unimportant
Van Dijk (1999) further noted that some sections of the media imply that white lives are more important than non-white lives.
He claimed, for example, that black victims of crime are not paid as much attention to as white victims of crime.
Shah (2008) claims that that the BBC engage in ‘tokenism’ – Black and Asian actors are cast as presenters or in roles just to give the appearance of ethnic equality, regardless of whether they ‘fit’ into the role.
The result is that many ethnic minorities do not identify with ethnic minority characters,
As a whole the mainstream media pays little attention to the genuine concerns and interests of ethnic minorities, because the mainstream media is dominated by a metropolitan, liberal, while, male, public school and Oxbridge educated, middle class elite.
Changing representations of ethnicity
NB – the photo at the top of this post is actually taken from a recent campaign to challenge the black male criminal stereotype in the media… find out more in this BBC article.
Chapman et al (2016) Sociology AQA A-level Year 2 Student Book
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