‘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?!?
ethnicity is cultural, and often contrasted to ‘race’ which refers to biological differences.
Ethnicity refers to a type of social identity based on cultural background, shared lifestyles and shared experiences. Several characteristics may serve as sources of a collective identity such as: language, a sense of shared history or ancestry, religion, shared beliefs and values.
Ethnic groups are ‘imagined communities’ whose existence depends on the self-identification of their members. Members of ethnic groups may see themselves as culturally distinct from other groups, and are seen, in turn, as different. In this sense, ethnic groups always co-exist with other ethnic groups.
When sociologists use the term ethnicity they usually contrast it to the historically discredited concept of race. Ethnicity refers to an active source of identity rooted in culture and society which means it is different to the concept of race which has historically been defined as something fixed and biological.
Ethnicity is learned, there is nothing innate about it, it has to be actively passed down through the generations by the process of socialisation. It follows that for some people, ethnicity is a very important source of identity, for others it means nothing at all, and for some it only becomes important at certain points in their lives – maybe when they get married or during religious festivals, or maybe during a period of conflict in a country.
Because it is rooted in culture, people’s sense of their ethnic identities can change over time and become more or less active in particular social contexts.
However some members of some ethnic groups may perceive the idea of race as important to their sense of shared identity. Some people may believe that they are of one particular race based on their particular biological characteristics or their shared ancestry and believe that only people with whom they perceive as having the same ‘racial’ characteristics belong to their in-group.
Majority ethnic groups are still ‘ethnic groups’. However, there is often a tendency to label the majority ethnic group, e.g. the ‘white-British’ group as non-ethnic, and all other minority ethnic groups as ‘ethnic minorities’. This results in the majority group regarding themselves as ‘the norm’ from which all other minority ethnic groups diverge.
There is also a tendency to oversimplify the concept of ethnicity – a good example of this is when job application forms ask for your ethnic identity (ironically to track equality of opportunity) and offer a limited range of categories such as Asian, African, Caribbean, White and so on, which fails to recognize that there are a number of different ethnic identities within each of these broader (misleading?) categories.
Race is now discredited historical concept which classifies people on the basis of biological differences.
‘Race’ is a historical concept used to categorise peoples based on biological differences such as skin colour and body type.
Today it is clear that there is no scientific basis for there being different races based on biological differences, but the historical ideas of ‘scientific racism’ have done much to shape social inequalities in the present, so we still need to deal with the now discredited term ‘race’ to understand inequalities today.
The concept of Race has been used by powerful groups as part of their strategies of domination, examples of which are the slave system in American history, and the holocaust against the Jews in Nazi Germany, and the contemporary situation of African Americans and Jews today cannot be understood without reference to racial segregation and racial ideologies – thus we still need to use and ‘deal with’ the term ‘race.
The historical concept of race
There have been numerous attempts by governments to establish categories of people based on skin colour or racial type. However these schemes have never been successful, with some identifying just four or five major categories and others as many as three dozen. Such disagreement over categorisations does not provide a reliable basis for social scientific research.
In many ancient civilisations, distinctions were often made between social groups on visible skin colour differences, usually between lighter and darker skin tones. However, before the modern period, it was more common for perceived distinctions to be based on tribal or kinship affiliations. These groups were numerous and the basis of their classification was relatively unconnected to modern ideas of race, with its biological or genetic connotations. Instead, classification rested on cultural similarity and group membership.
Theories of racial difference based on supposedly scientific methods were devised in Europe the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and used to justify the emerging social order – in which European nations came to control overseas territories through colonialism.
Count Joseph Arthur de Gobineau (1816 -82), sometimes referred to as the ‘father of modern racism’ proposed the existence of just three races – white (Caucasian), black (Negroid) and Yellow (Mongoloid).
According to Gobineau, the white race possessed superior intelligence, morality and willpower, and these properties explained their technical, economic and political superiority, while the black race were the least capable race – possessing the lowest intelligence, an animal nature, and a lack of morality, which served to justify their position in the American society as slaves.
Such wild generalizations have today been discredited, but they have been extremely influential, forming part of Nazi ideology in 1930s and 40s Germany, as well as the ideology of racist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan in the USA.
There is a link here to social action theory as the use of the concept of race illustrates W.I Thomas’ famous theorem that ‘when men define situations as real, then they are real in their consequences’. In other words, despite the fact that there is no objective basis for racial differences, because people in power have believed these differences to exist, they have perpetuated social orders which have systematically disadvantaged (in the case of European-colonial history) non-white people.
No such thing as Races
Many biologists report that there are no clear-cut races, just a range of physical variations in the human species. Differences in physical type arise from population inbreeding which varies according to the degree of contact between different groups. The genetic diversity within populations that share visible physical traits (such as skin colour) is just as great as the genetic diversity between populations.
‘All human beings belong to a single species and are descended from a common stock. They are born equal in dignity and rights and all form an integral part of humanity’.
Some sociologists argue that race is nothing more than an ideological construct and should therefore be abandoned, because simply using the term perpetuates the very idea that there are significant racial differences between humans
Unfortunately, despite the biological facts of there being no signficant differences between the peoples of planet earth, the idea of ‘race’ still has meaning for many people and forms the basis for discrimination in many societies around the world today.
Students of sociology will come across the term ‘race’ in many text books, but often in inverted commas to reflect the problems with the concept discussed below.
The process through which understandings of race are used to classify individuals or groups of people is called ‘racialization’. Historically, some groups of people came to be labelled as distinct on the basis of naturally occurring physical features. From the fifteenth century onwards, as Europeans came into contact with people from different regions of the world, attempts were made to explain perceived differences. Non-European populations were racialized in opposition to the European ‘white race’.
In some instances, this racialization developed into institutions backed up by legal structures, such as the slave system in the United States, or the Apartheid system in South Africa.
More commonly, however, social institutions have become racialized in a de facto manner – in other words, informal white prejudice and discrimination have resulted in a situation in which institutions have come to be dominated by white people, with non-white people being under-represented.
In racialized systems, the life chances of individuals are shaped by their position in that system – in European societies, for example, you would expect white people to have greater life chances in relation to education and work (for example), while non-white people would suffer reduced life chances .
It follows that racialization (and the ideas of ‘race’ that inform the process) is an importance factor in the reproduction of power and inequality in a society.
The concept of racialization might be a powerful tool for challenging racist ideology: because it essentially names the process for what it is – a purely subjective process used by the powerful to maintain positions of privilege, rather than the social divisions being created being based on any really existing significant objective differences between individuals.
The latest report notes that ethnic minorities, especially black people are over-represented at many stages of the criminal justice process – but especially in the stop and search practice.
The figures below show the percentages of different ethnic groups represented through stop and search to the prison population:
NB the percentages above do not show us the percentages proportionate to the numbers of White, Black and Asian in the population so on their own they are misleading. 22% of the population isn’t Black, for example, so black people are hugely over-represented in the stop and search statistics (something the England and Wales Police Force is well aware of as something of a ‘problem’!)
Official Statistics on Ethnicity and Crime: The Main Differences…
Proportionate to the overall numbers in the adult population as a whole…
Black people are approximately SIX times more likely to be stopped and searched and SIX times more likely to be sent to jail;
Asian people are THREE times more likely to be stopped and searched than White people, but have a similar chance of being sent to jail.
The rest of this post provides a little more detail on how the stats vary at different stages of the criminalisation process.
Stop and Search Statistics by Ethnicity
Stop and search has long been an issue of concern by Human Rights campaigners in England and Wales
According to this BBC summary (2013) The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said in some areas black people were 29 times more likely to be stopped and searched. The commission said the disproportion between different ethnic groups remained “stubbornly high”.
The highest “disproportionality” ratios were found in the following places:
In Dorset black people were 11.7 times more likely than white people to be stopped
In West Mercia, Asian people were 3.4 times more likely than white people to be stopped
In Warwickshire, people of mixed race were 4.4 times more likely than white people to be stopped and searched.
The report also looked at the use of Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act under which police can stop and search someone for weapons, without suspicion that the individual is involved in wrongdoing, providing that a senior officer has a reasonable belief that violence had or is about to occur.
Under section 60, In the West Midlands, black people were 29 times more likely than white people to be targeted and Asian people were six times more likely than white people to be targeted, which is what the above spoof advert mush be drawing on.
EHRC chief executive Mark Hammond said “the overall disproportionality in the use of the powers against black, Asian and mixed race people remains stubbornly high.”
And the latest figures figures (from the 2018 report above) note that things have got worse:
“The proportion of stop and searches conducted on White suspects decreased from 75% in 2014/15 to 59% in 2018/19 and increased for all minority ethnic groups.
The largest increases were from 13% to 22% for Black suspects and from 8% to 13% for Asian suspects.”
As the table below shows the overall number of people being stopped and searched by the police has declined in the last five years, but the proportions of Black and Asian people stopped and searched compared to whites has increased.
It seems that when the police are asked to use Stop and Search more selectively, they select to stop and search less white people and more ethnic minorities.
Arrest Rates following Stop and Search
The rates are converging, which I guess suggests the police are ‘getting it right’ in equal amounts across ethnic groups:
Arrest Statistics by Ethnicity
The total number of arrests have gone down over the last five years, in line with the declining crime rates. The arrest statistics have remained stable over time, with 77% of arrests being made of white people, 10% black and 7% Asian in 2018.
One stand-out trend for reasons for arrest is that Black people are less likely to be arrested for ‘violence against the person’ and more likely to be arrested for drugs than other ethnic groups – drugs is also the main reason for stop and search, so the two could be correlated.
Penalty Notices and Ethnicity
The main reason white people get given a penalty notice is for being ‘drunk and disorderly’, while for Black and Asian people the main reason is ‘cannabis possession’.
It’s interesting to note here that white people are getting notices for actually being offensive, while for black and asian people it’s merely possessing a drug the system has chosen to make illegal. There’s a significant link to interactionism here!
Prosecution and trial statistics
The Crown Prosecution service (CPS) is responsible for deciding whether a crime or arrest should be prosecuted in court. They base it on whether there is any real chance of the prosecution succeeding and whether it is better for the public that they are prosecuted.
Ethnic minority cases are more likely to be dropped than whites, and blacks and Asians are less likely to be found guilty than whites. Bowling and Phillips (2002) argue that this is because there is never enough evidence to prosecute as it is mainly based on racist stereotyping. In 2006/7 60% of whites were found guilty, against only 52% of blacks, and 44% of Asians.
When cases go ahead members of ethnic minorities are more likely to elect for Crown Court trail rather than magistrates (even through Crown Courts can hand out more severe punishments), potentially because of a mistrust of magistrates.
The conviction ratios are very similar for all ethnic groups, suggesting little racial bias at this stage of the criminal justice system:
Black people receive by far the longest sentences, but this seems related to much higher rates of repeat offending, while a much higher proportion of white people being prosecuted are first time offenders….
The 2018 report produced the impressive flow chart below, make of it what you will!
Personally my takeaway is that there seems to be broad equality in the way different ethnicities are treated, and a lot more repeat offending by Black offenders, hence their longer prison sentences.
Prosecutions and Convictions by Type of Offence and Ethnicity
To summarise to the extreme, White people mainly get convicted for theft, Black and Asian people for Drugs.
It’s also worth noting that Black people have significantly lower rates for violent crime than White or Asian people.
Prison Population by Ethnicity
The younger the age group, the fewer white people there are in jail:
And for the under 25s, the number of ethnic minorities in jail has increased proportionate to White people over the last five years:
More than half of children in jail are ethnic minorities
The latest report also has stats on children moving through the criminal justice system.
The figures are even more skewed against ethnic minorities compared to the adult statistics.
It’s more than a little disturbing to note that 51% of children in prison are from ethnic minority backgrounds.
The British Crime Survey indicated that 44 per cent of victims were able to say something about the offender who was involved in offences against them. Among these, 85 per cent of offenders were said by victims to be ‘white’, 5 per cent ‘black’, 3 per cent ‘Asian’ and 4 per cent ‘mixed’. However, these stats are only for the minority of ‘contact’ offences and very few people have any idea who was involved in the most common offences such as vehicle crime and burglary. Therefore, in the vast majority of offences no reliable information is available from victims about the ethnicity of the criminal.
Though not ‘official statistics’ because they’re not done by the government routinely, it’s interesting to contrast the above stats to this alternative way of measuring crime. Self-report studies ask people to disclose details of crimes they committed but not necessarily been caught doing or convicted of. Graham and Bowling (1995) Found that blacks (43%) and whites (44%) had similar and almost identical rates of crime, but Asians actually had lower rates (Indians- 30%, Pakistanis-28% and Bangladeshi-13%).
Sharp and Budd (2005) noted that the 2003 offending, crime and justice survey of 12,000 people found that whites and mixed ethnicity were more likely to say they had committed a crime, followed by blacks (28%) and Asians (21%).
You might also like these two further posts on official statistics, ethnicity and crime….
Racial inequality and injustice are core themes within A level and degree-level Sociology, and there are a huge variety of songs across many genres which deal with such themes. The selection below deal with issues and concepts such as prejudice, discrimination, stereotyping, Islamophobia, and many are critical of the nation state in perpetuating racial injustice through violence and moral panics.
The amount of such songs probably reflects the fact that their authors’ really aren’t being heard through regular channels, hence the musical outlet. Below are my top ten songs about race and injustice which can be used to illustrate various sociological themes. If you have any alternative suggestions about other songs which should be included please provide them in the comments.
10 – “War”, Bob Marley and the Wailers (Rastaman Vibration, 1976)
‘One Love’ and happy-spliff posters only represent a slither of Bob Marley’s philosophy – take a closer look at the lyrics of many of his songs and you’ll find a more serious political side to them – the opening verse of ‘War’ illustrates this perfectly..
‘Until the philosophy which hold one race superior And another Inferior Is finally And permanently Discredited And abandoned – Everywhere is war – Me say war’
In later verses there’s a vision of globalisation based on human rights and international morality, and there seems to be a critique of the role which various nation states have played in preventing this from happening, a theme which you’ll find in some of his other songs such as ‘No Woman, No Cry”, which has precious little to do with romance btw.
9 – “Columbus”, Burning Spear (Hail H.I.M., 1980)
There’s not a great deal of sociological/ political content in ‘Columbus’ compared to some of the other songs on the list, but it does provide us with an unambiguous criticism of colonialism and reminds us that much of our history comes from a Eurocentric perspective.
‘Christopher Columbus is a damn blasted liar Christopher Columbus is a damn blasted liar Yes Jah
He’s saying that, he is the first one Who discover Jamaica I and I say that, What about the Arawak Indians and the few Black man Who were around here, before him’
8 – “Beds Are Burning”, Midnight Oil (Diesel and Dust, 1987)
This song protests the forcible removal of the Australian Aboriginal people, the Pintupi, from their western desert homeland, to the Northern Territories. During the 1950’s, the western desert was used for missile testing so the government forcibly relocated the Pintupi. Their land was not purchased from them and they received no compensation for their troubles.
The relocation didn’t just remove a people from their land; it also forcibly removed thousands of Aboriginal children from their parents, who were dispersed into separate government and religious institutions and foster care. They became known as “The Stolen Generation”.
‘The time has come
To say fair’s fair To pay the rent To pay our share
The time has come A fact’s a fact It belongs to them Let’s give it back’
Midnight Oil performed this song at the close of the 2000 Sydney Olympic games to a world audience of billions of people, including Prime Minister John Howard. The entire band was dressed in black with the word “sorry” printed on their clothing because the Prime Minister refused to apologise on behalf of Australia to the Aboriginal Australians for how they were treated in the past 200 years.
A good candidate for the angriest of the songs on the list – but it is none the less an authentic account of perceived police racism in LA in the 1980s.
‘Searching my car, looking for the product Thinking every n***a is selling narcotics You’d rather see, me in the pen Than me and Lorenzo rolling in a Benz-o’
There’s not really too much to say about this one, other than it’s a useful, and classic, illustration of NWA applying labelling theory – the version above is the classic, but they’ve been performing this live even in recent years to a popular reception.
6 – Sonny’s Lettah, Linton Kwesi Johnson (Forces of Victory, 1979)
Sonny’s Lettah was written in protest of the so-called ‘Sus law’, which allowed police to detain people suspected of having “intent to commit an arrestable offence,” in England. The story of Sonny is a condensation of various experiences gathered by Johnson into this one song.
The ‘lettah’ is written from a man to his mother explaining that he’s in prison – for defending a friend who was detained and beaten by the police for no apparent good reason.
‘Me and Jim stand up waiting pon a bus not causing no fuss when all on a sudden a police man pull up out jump 3 police man De ‘ole a dem carrying baton
Ma Maa, meck a tell yu weh dem do to Jim Ma Maa , meck a tell yu we dem do to him Dem tump ‘im in ‘im belly an’ it turn to jelly Dem lick ‘im pon ‘im back an ‘im rib get pop Dem lick ‘im pon ‘im head but it tuff like lead Dem kick ‘im in ‘im seed an it started to bleed
Ma Maa I just couldn’t just stan’ up deh a no do nutten…’
In contrast to NWA, this is the most depressing song on the list, testimony maybe to the power of the narrative voice: the fact that it’s just one personalised (albeit hypothetically mish-mashed) case somehow has more of an emotional impact than many of the other songs which are more generalised and abstract.
5 – “Talk That”, Rival (Lord Rivz EP, 2011)
Written on the back of the London Riots, grime artist rival reminds us that there are literally hundreds of thousands of marginalised young people living in London who don’t identify with The City, the Olympic Park or Buckingham Palace – theirs is a life of blocked opportunity, crime and violence.
“A lot of people ask me why I speak so much violence, so much pain, so much rage,
That’s all I know”
4 – “Fortress Europe”, Asian Dub Foundation (Enemy of the Enemy, 2003)
A song dealing with asylum seekers – Asian Dub Foundation believe Britain’s boarders should remain open because Britain needs immigrants, with even illegal immigrants generating wealth. They also believe that the media making the link between asylum seekers and terrorism does not reflect the reality of most asylum seekers, i.e. most of them (near enough all of them in fact) are not terrorists.
‘Safe european homes built on wars You don’t like the effect don’t produce the cause The chip is in your head not on my shoulder Total control just around the corner Open up the floodgates time’s nearly up Keep banging on the wall of fortress europe Keep banging Keep banging on the wall of fortress europe’
3. “Rong Radio Station”, Benjamin Zephaniah (Naked, 2006)
Deals with the role of the media in maintaining ideological control/ hegemony/ false consciousness. You have to watch it with the video – it adds another dimension!
‘For years I’ve been sedated Now I think I’m educated I’ve been listening to the rong radio station and every time I felt ill, I took the same little white pill I’ve been listening to the rong radio station, When I started I was curious but then it got so serious I was cool when I began but now I really hate Iran And look at me now I wanna make friends with Pakistan I wanna bomb Afghanistan’
2 “Terrorist”, Lowkey (Soundtrack to The Struggle, 2011)
Serves to remind us that while ‘terrorism’ is almost exclusively associated with Islamic Fundamentalism these days, there are in fact many violent, politically motivated actions which maybe should be regarded as terrorism, but aren’t labelled as such.
Tell me, what’s the bigger threat to human society BAE Systems or home made IED’s Remote controlled drones, killing off human lives Or man with home made bomb committing suicide
If you look back over the past century, there are dozens of cases of western governments using violence to pursue their political goals – but when powerful organisations use smart-weapons to kill innocent people thousands of miles away, this is ‘legitimate force and collateral damage’, but when some Muslims do the same in the West, but with cruder home made weapons, they get labelled ‘terrorists’.
In versus two and three we get a nice historical overview of recent democratic regimes in developing countries which the West overthrew using military force, and in verse three a broader account of non-Islamic forms of terrorism.
1 – “Freestyle”, Akala (Fire in the Booth, 2011)
Eight minutes of freestyling by Akala, covering numerous sociological issues. Common themes in Akala’s songs include war and conflict, racism, social injustice, and false consciousness – nicely illustrating many of the concepts developed by Marxist and Interactionist thought.
‘We can all fight our brothers over crumbs,
Harder to fight the one who makes guns’
NB Akala is very knowledgeable about the history of class and race relations in the UK – you should look at some of the videos with him talking/ being interviewed for an accessible introduction to this area of sociology.