Sample Sociology Paper on Social Class and Crime

Central Points

            The author, Robert Crutchfield, has delved into the various explanations given for the varying crime statistics between African Americans and other racial groups. African Americans are the most incarcerated group in America due to crimes relate to violence and drugs. Some scholars have posited that African Americans are culturally inclined to crime while others are convinced that economic suppression has played a part in driving many African Americans into crime. Before the abolition of slavery in the United States, there were very few African Americans in prison. This was partly due to the fact that the slave owners were reluctant to let go of their labor. Furthermore, the majority considered lynching as better punishment for slaves that had done wrong as opposed to taking them to prison to pay for their crimes.

            Hardly had two decades passed after the emancipation of slaves, than they became the majority in prisons. The same trend has remained despite the passage of time. Many scholars have tried to explain why the blacks are overrepresented in the prisons and arrests by police. Some have tried to use biology to explain the tendency of African Americans getting involved in violent crimes. A critical analysis of the various types of crimes reveal that white Americans are more prone to white collar crimes compared to blacks. However, the white-collar crimes are considered less severe than the violent crimes that most blacks are convicted of. Another reason given by many scholars for the numerous cases of crime among black people is the poor communities and neighborhoods they live in. Systemic discrimination has continued to deprive the African Americans upward mobility in terms of socioeconomic class.

Subcultures of Violence and Poverty

            The subculture of violence and subculture of poverty have been posited as possible causes of the high incidents of crime among the black people in the United States. During the slavery days, the masters were very cruel to the African American slaves. Violence was meted on the black slaves on a daily basis. Scholars postulate that the visitation of violence on the black people over generations could have made them internalize violence as a part of their socialization even after they became free people. The black people, having been exposed to violence for so long, carried the pro-violence values and norms. This is what is called the subculture of violence. Majority of African American have lived in poor neighborhoods since emancipation up to most of the twentieth century.

            The environment of poverty and having to become aggressive to survive created a conducive environment for crime. The residents of the poor inner cities were likely to adopt and internalize norms and patterns that made it easy for the them to break the law. This subculture that makes crime more likely is referred to as the subculture of poverty. Subculture of violence and subculture of poverty tend to put the blame on the black Americans for the high rates of crime among them. At the same time, it strips them of any power to tame their inclination towards crime. This is because they are born into these subcultures and have no control over the effect the subcultures have on them. The explanations given by the subcultures justify the unfair targeting of African Americans by the American criminal justice system. At the same time, it perpetuates the stereotype of African Americans having a higher probability of being involved in crime.

Author’s Position

            The author does not agree with the explanations given for the exceptionally high rates of crimes among the black community. The reason for his disagreement is these explanations work towards blaming the black people without considering the social pressures that they have faced over time. It disregards the structural discrimination that they have faced and the limited opportunities afforded African Americans compared to Americans of other races. The subcultural explanations further propagate the political sentiments given by social media commentators and politicians that crime boils down to personal responsibility. This narrative of individual personal responsibility is very popular among conservatives. It is a classic move of blaming the victims for their social class position and the inevitable outcomes of the same.

            The official data on crime inclusive of arrests and persons in prison is not enough to make conclusions regarding the proclivity of black people to commit crimes. Instead of criminologists relying solely on the data provided by the criminal justice system agents, they should also use the self-reported crimes and victimization data. This alternative data is not tainted by the biases and actions of the agents of criminal justice system in America. The self-reported studies on crime in the United States have revealed that even though black people are engaged in more felonies than whites, the gap between the two is significantly narrower that is portrayed by the arrest and conviction statistics. The data given by the criminal justice system and the subcultures made popular by scholars have perpetuated the social construction that African Americans are prone to become criminals more that other races. This has made most people of other races in America to always view the black man with suspicion.

Author’s Alternative

The author is insistent on studying the condition of the African American communities wholesomely. The history of oppression and continued subtle oppression of the black people should be considered before they are blamed for having higher rates of crime compared to other racial groups. The segregation law confined black people in poor neighborhoods that were denied the necessary amenities by the government. Further, they were denied opportunities to advance economically. It is only in the recent past that the African Americans have been afforded some level of equality with other racial groups. Even in the present, the negative stereotypes associated with black people still persist. Most black people are still trapped in the poor neighborhoods and with limited education. The limited resources they have around them cause them to resort to crime for resources and also as a means of earning regular income. Broadening one’s scope when studying the tendency of black people to engage in crime and also considering the situations in other countries can give one a better under understanding of the phenomenon of African Americans and crime.


The African Americans are overrepresented in the criminal justice system and prisons in the United States. Various theories abound to explain the tendency of more black people being involved in crime compared to other races. Some scholars believe that African Americans are naturally violent while other attribute the propensity for crime to the culture and subcultures of the black people. The views given by a majority of scholars are narrow, requiring comprehensive understanding of the history and present conditions of this community.