For my second media blog post, I chose to watch a video from The Robina Annual Conference “Crime and Justice in America, 1975-2025”. Jeffrey Fagan of Columbia University presented a talk titled “Race and Crime”. He brought up important points of why race and crime are related and ways we are able to make them unrelated in the future. I believe this video furthered my understanding of the connection between race and crime and helped me become more aware of this consequential issue. We should be using the law to correct this issue, but instead it is only worsening the problem. Although talking about race might become a little uncomfortable at times, it is something certainly worth talking about. It is impossible to talk about incarceration in the United States without mentioning race.
Fagan started off his talk with specific statistics relating to African American males and arrest rates. In the United States, there are nearly a million African American males in prison currently. He also mentioned that one in three African American males have some kind of criminal record. This reminded me of a quote from Not a Crime to Be Poor. The book states, “African Americans account for 6 percent of San Francisco’s population but comprised 70.4 percent of clients who came to an arrest and conviction clinic convened by the San Francisco Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights in 2014” (Edelman, 2017, p. 63). It is evident that people of color pay the highest price even when they are clearly outnumbered.
One reason this is happening is because of racial profiling, which is when law enforcement use someone’s race as a reason to suspect a person has committed a crime. The use of racial profiling has destroyed the trust between people of color and the police. Jill Weber, a public defender from Oklahoma, states that the police there have a squad car at a stop sign in an African American dominated neighborhood and will arrest people for rolling through the stop sign (Edelman 2017). I think arresting someone for rolling through a stop sign is the biggest misuse of authority. Movements like #BlackLivesMatter show how dangerous racial profiling can truly become and why it needs to disappear in the near future.
Another reason crime and race are related is because of implicit bias. Everyone has implicit biases that they are completely unaware of and are a result of their own personal experience. We discussed implicit bias in class, and I was not surprised at my personal implicit biases. I think most people tend to be bias towards the race that they identify with, which might seem harmless but can become a real issue over time. I think this is why we need to have more diversity in the police force. Fagan states that in the New York City Police Department, only ten percent of the command ranks are non-white. In order to understand why that statistic is important, we have to realize how big the New York City Police Department actually is. There are almost 40,000 police officers meaning only 4,000 are non-white. Bias has a multiplier effect on everything around it. Fagan also brings up a series on CNN where Anderson Cooper interviewed young children about racial conflict. Even though these were young children, there was a profound racial bias present. This shows that racial bias is simply taught and can be avoidable.
In conclusion, race and crime are strongly related in today’s world. After watching the video, obviously there is a big issue we cannot ignore, which is a big reason why others should watch Jeffrey Fagan’s speech about race and crime. So, why is it so hard for us to talk about race? Race can be a genuinely tough topic to discuss and a person can receive hate for simply using the wrong terminology when speaking about it. However, in order to fix the issue, we must be addressing the topic. No matter how uncomfortable it might get, we need to be having these types of conversations. Even before watching the video, I was aware there was a connection between race and crime. Although, I did not realize how obvious this connection actually is. Maybe others are in the same situation I was in, which is why I think this video is important and should be shared to anyone wanting to know more information about race and crime. Jeffrey Fagan helps simply break down this issue and some ways we can try to put an end to it.
Edelman, P. (2017). Not a Crime to Be Poor. New York: The New Press.
Jeffrey Fagan’s “Race and Crime”: https://robinainstitute.umn.edu/files/race-and-crime