AFRICAN JOURNAL OF CRIMINOLOGY & JUSTICE STUDIES:
AJCJS; Volume 1, No. 2, November 2005
ETHNICITY AND CRIME: CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR
The University of Texas At Brownsville, and Texas Southmost
Nancy A. Horton
University of Maryland Eastern Shore
Studies dealing with the definition of crime have primarily been concerned with developing hypotheses and theories of universal crime commission and definition. These theories of human
behavior may appear plausible on paper but do not work well with people. All the theories of human behavior contain some truth. However, variables do not function one at a time nor can one theory explain all human behavior. These reasons justify studying human behavior from a social context perspective. This paper examines why one ethnic group can be heard praising a behavior while another ethnic group is doing the opposite. Factually, ethnic definition of behavior is the consequence of “Ethnic Differential Opportunity Definition” (EDOD) which states that (behavior) crime is what your ethnic group says it is. The U.S. Supreme Court is slowly accepting the EDOD. In Small v. United States (2005) the ∗
The authors wish to express sincere appreciation to the
anonymous reviewers for their constructive responses to earlier drafts of this paper.
ETHNICITY AND CRIME: CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR REDEFINED
Noel Otu and Nancy Horton
highest court narrowed a federal law that prohibits anyone
“convicted in any court” of a crime punishable by imprisonment for more than one year from possessing firearms,
18.U.S.C.$922(g)(1). The court ruled that the law does not apply to those who were convicted in (outside their ethnic group) foreign countries. Frankly speaking, it means that felony conviction (crime) does not count and could not be used as the basis for anything if it occurs outside your ethnic group (country).
A notable recent change in America (USA) has been a renewed
interest in the connection between ethnicity and crime in which some observers of the American criminal justice system have
presented contradictory and sometimes inconclusive findings. The diversity of findings is often attributed to disregarding ethnicity as a cultural attribute, which, if negatively reinforced by society's social responses and interactions or by inequalities, gives rise to (conflict) crime. As varied ethnic groups encounter different experiences in a heterogeneous culture, ethnic differences and group criminality are inevitable. Ethnicity and Crime: Criminal Behavior Redefined is designed to provide understanding and to prepare us for reality.
Ethnic group in this article means a group of people ` who share a feeling of “peoplehood.” The purpose here is to demonstrate that all people interact not just as individuals, but also as members indebted to particular ethnic groups. Hence, individuals see criminality and the criminal justice system differently, depending on the historical social context of each person’s ethnic group. 70
AJCJS: AFRICAN JOURNAL OF CRIMINOLOGY & JUSTICE
STUDIES, Volume 1, No. 2, November 2005
The dominant criminological studies of ethnicity and crime have long taken the form of order theories (Pincus & Ehrlich, 1994) in which the central focus is on progressive adaptation to the
dominant culture and on stability in intergroup relations (Bonacich, 1980; Gordon, 1963; Hieschman, 1983; Hullum, 1973; Park &
Burgess, 1924; Devore and London, 1999).
Ethnicity is based on the conditions of being different because of cultural background--by religion, race, family patterns, national origin, and other characteristics. It is these differences in identity and social experience that give rise to the belief that the behaviors of various ethnic groups are different and that their views on criminality are also different. Most prior research has not
addressed these characteristics adequately.