The majority of research on race and ethnic relations deals with diverse topics and reflects some social concerns. One of the major analyses focuses on the culture and internal social structures as well as processes in racial and ethnic minorities. In addition, ethnic relations vary in terms of stratification, control of resources, social control of members, degree of social closure, and international relationships. Similarly, racism is demonstrated in diverse and complex ways such as stereotyping, discrimination, ethnocentrism, racial groups, and re-segregation. This paper will explore issues of race and ethnic relations as well as xenophobia as they are practiced in relation to African American groups. Notably, it will focus on the way that police officers and media coverage portray those Blacks in cases of homicide.
Keywords: Race and ethnic relations, xenophobia, stereotyping, discrimination, ethnocentrism, racial groups, re-segregation.
Research on Race and Ethnic Relations
African Americans are regarded as minorities, but they are affected by race and ethnic relations quite significantly. Thus, despite the passing of the Civil Rights Act, the popularity of affirmative action, and the development of bilingual education programs, Blacks still struggle with the challenges of racism. On the other hand, urban violence is one of the issues that Blacks encounter in American society. However, although there are high rates of urban violence, Blacks are victimized more than their White counterparts. In particular, most African American males are represented both as victims and perpetrators of violent crimes. In this case, research suggests that the rates of urban violence rise due to the structural disadvantages that African American males experience in their neighborhoods. However, it is important to note that the causes of violence do not originate at the neighborhood levels. Rather, this violence is caused by the effects of racism, residential segregation, and poverty. As a result, the youths from Black communities are arrested, jailed, and imprisoned at higher rates than Whites are. For these reasons, xenophobia is a major issue in the United States. So many people do not even realize that they act upon fears that have been instilled in them from family, friends, or other means of interaction. The only way to correct such a deeply ingrained reaction is to educate the young generations on other countries and peoples and to show them how all people, including their own race/ethnicity, can be vicious or that they can be friendly. The reactions of others depend on the level of education about other cultures and beliefs as well as the knowledge of the difference between tolerance and acceptance.
In their urban jurisdiction, police departments respond when there are cases of homicides, assaults, and robberies. Unfortunately, due to the prevalence of racial and ethnic relations, the outcomes of urban violence usually affect the minority groups that live in the inner parts of the city (Braga & Brunson, 2015). In other words, racism has created a long history of exclusion from social and economic opportunities, and Blacks are at the most disadvantaged position. Thus, research shows that most violence occurs within racial groups and that blacks are often victimized (Dollar, 2014). As a result, the vast majority of urban Black residents is often affected by the response of the police even when they are not involved in criminal behaviors (Dollar, 2014). It should be noted that police aggressively target the Black population. In this case, incidents of urban violence are so marginalized that they are perceived as a Black problem. The police departments in the United States demonstrate some form of discrimination in their efforts to reduce violence, investigate crimes, and protecting victims (Braga & Brunson, 2015). This means that xenophobia is widespread in American society, and it has contributed to a false idea that Blacks are more involved in crimes than Whites are.
On a further note, the issues of urban violence are also discussed in the media in a manner that creates the misconceptions that the higher rates of crimes are found among African Americans. On the one hand, most Americans know about the matters of crimes and justice because they are popularly portrayed in the media (Hegarty & Bartos, 2014). At the same time, there are many positive effects of media coverage on crimes. For example, the patterns of crimes are addressed, disparities in the justice system are corrected, and victims can receive relief. Unfortunately, the media is interested in presenting these matters in a way that will captivate the audience. Therefore, although crimes have decreased steadily, Blacks are still portrayed more as perpetrators than victims (Stolzenberg, D’Alessio, & Eitle, 2004). The media has also distorted crimes and justice issues by constructing perceptions that do not meet the reality of contemporary crime problems. Moreover, by acting white, it becomes easier to have misconceptions especially relating to violence in the cities that can take many forms. These include persistent coverage of homicides and shooting in the Black neighborhoods without the appropriate contextual information. As a result, this information perpetrates inaccurate stereotyping and discrimination of Blacks as violent people (Thomas et al., 2012). Moreover, when the media provides extensive coverage of crimes, such as homicides involving White victims while giving little insights on those involving Black victims, it promotes a perception that the killing of the latter is less important than the killings of the former (Dollar, 2014). These are characteristics of a community where xenophobia, racial groups, and race threat theory are prevalent.
Additionally, the effects of xenophobia have created wrong perceptions of African Americans. The first notion is that Black homicides are random. This idea gives the interpretation that any citizen can become a victim of a crime committed by Blacks at any place or time. Consequently, the promotion of such a misunderstanding may result in the increased fears of violence exhibited by residents and visitors to the majority of Black neighborhoods (The World Bank, 2011). The increased fear of violence is an obstacle to encourage Blacks to participate fully in neighborhood life. Secondly, high rates of homicide are caused by persistent lawless behavior by African Americans. This is a wrong idea that leads to an implicit assumption in American society that a high proportion of Black residents are involved in crime and disorder (Thomas et al., 2012). These misperceptions can be used to define race threat theory. Similarly, there is a false perception that cases of homicides among African American communities are caused by their tolerance for criminal and immoral behavior. For these reasons, this idea can influence the police to view entire Black neighborhoods as supporters of criminal behaviors mistakenly (Stolzenberg, D’Alessio, & Eitle, 2004). Moreover, Backs are likely to suffer from higher rates of victimization than Whites are.
Notably, in defining race threat theory, one can focus on detailed data in Boston that shows the nature of Black homicide victimization and offending in urban areas. Although there are significant differences across cities in the United States, the basic picture is that Blacks are overrepresented in violent crimes among gangs, drug-selling, and homicides (Braga & Brunson, 2015). According to the 2010 U.S Census, 24% of the 618,000 residents in Boston identify themselves as Black (Braga & Brunson, 2015). Between 2000 and 2013, there were 836 homicides in Boston, whereas about 68% of blacks were arrested as homicide offenders (Braga & Brunson, 2015). However, it does not mean that cities like Boston generate a large number of Blacks who are involved in criminal behaviors. The reality is that both Blacks and Whites share related homicides accounts. Furthermore, there are few black males in Boston who admit being gang members. For instance, in 2006, only 1% of the population in this city between the ages of 14 and 24 were reported as members of street gangs that were involved in gun violence (Braga & Brunson, 2015). This means that Blacks do not contribute to higher rates of violent crimes as reported by the media. It is the effects of racism and xenophobia that leads to such inaccurate reports.
Further, the inappropriate and poor investigations of crimes can lead to the ineffectiveness of policy responses to them. Therefore, it is imperative for police officers to ensure that adequate information is collected when investigating crimes. Moreover, police departments should be encouraged to pursue strategies that will be tailored to specific risks (Hegarty & Bartos, 2014). Thus, the police should choose to address the recurring problems that affect minority groups. As law enforcers, the police should adopt the policies that seek to engage the community into changing the underlying conditions that are enhanced by race and ethnic relations (The World Bank, 2011). It is equally important to eliminate over-policing; this is a situation where the police consider certain places and people as being likely to engage in criminal behaviors. Over-policing is worse in the disadvantaged neighborhoods that are mostly occupied by Blacks. Therefore, to reduce the overrepresentation of Blacks in criminal behaviors, police officers should cooperate with the citizens to identify the areas that have a high concentration of crimes (Marger, 2011). In this way, it will be easier to handle the cases related to urban violence that target African Americans in terms of delayed response times and the overall perception that they are involved in crimes more than their White counterparts.
In conclusion, one should state that many studies explore race and ethnic relations in the United States. Similarly, these studies demonstrate that there are many forms, in which racism can be demonstrated, especially against African Americans. Therefore, xenophobia is one of the ways that cause the overrepresentation of Blacks in criminal behaviors. They are portrayed as being involved in higher rates of homicide in comparison to Whites. However, these wrong perceptions are exercised by law enforcers. On the other hand, xenophobia works closely with race threat theory because the members of the African American population are perceived as those who are most likely to be perpetrators. As a result, there is a need to develop strategies that will eliminate these issues completely. Thus, police officers should seek to engage all the communities irrespective of the races in order to eliminate xenophobia that is widespread among Americans. Furthermore, police departments should also conduct comprehensive investigations to have appropriate patterns of crimes. In this way, the different forms of racism that still hinder the ability of African Americans to access justice and positive media coverage will be eliminated.