By definition, homicide is the act of killing an individual by another. These activities include murder, assassination, and permissible murder among other accidental murders. The United States faces an ongoing epidemic of homicide among male black Americans. In the period from 2002- 2007, black American youth formed a major part of juvenile homicide victims. Their statistic rose by 31%. It is important to note that during this period the number of young black Americans killed by guns increased to 54% (Roth 170-171). The main objective of this paper is to explain why black Americans have committed the highest number of homicides and criminal activities and even participate in the killing of members of their race. This explanation will be understood from their explanation by 4 sociological theories
Sociological Theories Giving Reasons for High Homicide Rates and Criminal Activities among Blacks
This sociological theory of propounded by Davis and Moore suggests that society is stratified since it this form of inequality ids important for the well-being of the society. According to this school of thought, any society has roles that are allocated to various individuals depending on a variety of factors such as an individual’s intelligence and the level of training that the said individuals possess. The more complex the tasks an individual performs are, the more the power, money, and prestige that they also receive (Andersen & Taylor 165). The rewards that are attached to any given occupation are always a reflection of its importance in society. In relation to the increase in the rate of homicides that are becoming a characteristic in black American society, functionalist theory argues that this violent nature can be attributed to the level in the hierarchy of stratification that these individuals find themselves in.
Borrowing from the principles of this school of thought, there is need for each society to position individuals in positions where they feel inspired to work. Black American communities are positioned at the lower ranks in the society. This feeling makes them less motivated as their streets are charactized by poor quality of education, insufficient supply of basic amenities and high poverty levels resulting from a high rate of unemployment (Healey 235). It is possible to blame the American community for the uncomfortable levels of poverty since it has failed to create the opportunities that would encourage black American youth to seek less criminal ways of acquiring commodities necessary for their well-being (Andersen & Taylor 168).
Davis and Moore also argue every society must be able to place appropriate people in the appropriate positions and ensure that proper rewards are attached to the said positions to make them more attractive. When a society demonstrates signs of discrimination against member of the society on the basis of other factors other than their qualifications then the said individuals will develop a feeling of resentment against the society. Such feelings are major contributors to the way children and other members of the society are socialized to understand the general operations around them (Andersen & Taylor 165).
It is also possible to argue that social inequality is a key tenet of the functionality theory. According to this school of thought, social inequality does not unconsciously evolve in the society, rather it is a making if the society to ensure that those positions and ranks that are considered important must be filled by the right people (Andersen & Taylor 165). This in some way can be said to be an institutionalized inequality. Low income and less important positions of prestige are a characteristic of the black society. Within these positions there are those that are considered of prestige at that low level. As people who are less qualified, crime serves the purpose of attaining the prestige that is desired among black Americans. There is always need to move up the social ladder and this is a contributing factor to the high levels of crime witnessed among black Americans (Healey 238).
The declining significance of race theory
William Wilson, a proponent of this theory, attempts to relate racial issues to the economic and political and structures in the society. Changes in these structures have affected the level by which people of black and white origin are able to access rewards and privileges including racial resentments (Levine 223). In terms of the prevalence of homicide among the black community, this asserts that homicide cases are high in black American neighbourhoods since they are more likely compared to other groups to be part of socially deprived neighbourhoods. Such neighbourhoods are characterized by insufficient resources to ensure safe and secure neighbourhoods to promote the fight against criminal activities (Healey 236).
According to this school of thought, the high rate of homicide crimes can also be attributed to lower educational attainment that characterizes the socially disadvantaged black American neighbourhoods. This means that the streets of such neighbourhoods are less patrolled, and there are fewer employment opportunities for the young population, which is at a risk of getting involved in criminal activities (Levine 223).
Despite the high crime rates among African Americans and Hispanics, these ethnic communities are not predisposed to homicide crimes, rather, the social conditions of their neighbourhoods lead to high homicide rates. This means that if the socioeconomic characteristics of these neighbourhoods are to be put into account, then ethnic homicide differentials will reduce or disappear. It is however important to note that most of the homicide cases among the black Americans arise from differentials in family and socioeconomic dynamics which in turn lead to the development of ghetto classes (Levine 222).
Intergenerational mobility theory
This is also another theory of social inequality. According to this school of thought, blacks and whites do not have the equal international mobility. This is attributable to the fact that the types of upbringing that these individuals undergo do not provide an equal platform for competition. According to this school of thought, the eventual position of individuals in the society line with economic and social platforms is defined by his surroundings (Andersen & Taylor 177). A child who is socialized in a socially rich society will develop attributes that inspire him or her to ensure that the status quo is maintained. However, children who are socialized in poverty stricken environment will struggle to quit such an environment but they are bound to face challenges resulting from insufficient resources in their environment. The scarce resources will lead to him crime rate due to the need to possess resources necessary for social and economic satisfaction. In some instances, black American youth get involved in criminal activities due to frustrations arising from their surroundings. These frustrations impede their upward mobility in the social structure (Healey 236).
This school of thought also denies gang or drug related activities as the major cause of homicides in the black American community. The surrounding characterized by the frustration it provides to different individuals within the black American community is the leading cause of homicides. This is because such surroundings offer little or no opportunities for success. The individuals in such communities are often angered by their inferior positions; hence, the tendency to become more violent in circumstances where they are ridiculed by other members of the society (Andersen & Taylor 245).
According the proponents of this school of thought, racial prejudices and discrimination can provide a perfect understanding on the varying trends of homicide and other criminal cases in different societies. In addition, this theory also provides an explanation on why black American communities have been experiencing an increase in homicide among other criminal activities instances despite the repeal of laws that had previously championed for racial segregation and slavery (Anderson & Douglas 236). According to this theory those who control the means of production have developed stereotypical biases against the minority in the society. This has led to the adoption of values which in some way offer normative support for vehement behaviour. This type of support increases the likelihood that relatively hostile desires will lead to murderous happenings especially among those feeling discriminated.
The reasons for lower homicidal rates among the white and the relatively higher homicidal incidences in the black community can be said to be related to the differences in their value orientations. These values according to the bias theory can be attributed to other factors within the society such as the poverty levels within that society. The white members of the American society are the majority and the y control most means of production. The need to forcefully acquire wealth that the black youth fell should be shared equally drives them into forceful acquisition of the said property hence an increase in crime rate (Andersen & Taylor 234).
Social structural factors, according to this school of thought, can also be said to be major determinants of level of racial prejudice and discrimination that a community adopts in its daily operations. These include racial differences that come with an individual’s socioeconomic status. Poverty is therefore an essential component in the determination of the type of culture that any community adopts. Majority of black Americans live in relatively poor communities. These poverty levels help inform the subculture they adopt since the frustrations that their economic situations provide enhance the development of a relatively violent attitude against those that despise of discriminate them based on their economic status (Anderson & Douglas 236).
Criminal activities such as homicide in black American community have increased in the past years. This increase is witnessed despite the abolition of slave trade and racial segregation laws. Different theoretical approaches provide variety of reasons for such a rise. It is however important to note that poverty, is a major factor in determining the level of social inequality in America. Racial prejudice and discrimination, which results from among other factors discrimination against the black community by the white majority, is also a leading cause of the rise in criminal activities. The functionalist theory tries to provide a reason for such crimes with the argument that they are often geared towards maintaining the social structure of inequality.
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