A Theory of African American Offending : Race, Racism, and Crime book cover
1st Edition

A Theory of African American Offending
Race, Racism, and Crime

ISBN 9780415883580
Published February 28, 2011 by Routledge
288 Pages

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Book Description

A little more than a century ago, the famous social scientist W.E.B. Du Bois asserted that a true understanding of African American offending must be grounded in the "real conditions" of what it means to be black living in a racial stratified society. Today and according to official statistics, African American men – about six percent of the population of the United States – account for nearly sixty percent of the robbery arrests in the United States. To the authors of this book, this and many other glaring racial disparities in offending centered on African Americans is clearly related to their unique history and to their past and present racial subordination. Inexplicably, however, no criminological theory exists that fully articulates the nuances of the African American experience and how they relate to their offending. In readable fashion for undergraduate students, the general public, and criminologists alike, this book for the first time presents the foundations for the development of an African American theory of offending.


Table of Contents



1. Introduction

African Americans and the Criminal Justice System

The Uniqueness of Being Black in America: The need for a Black Criminology

The African American Heritage

A Black Criminology

General Criminological Theories on African American Offending

Social Disorganization Theory

Hirschi’s Social Control Theory

Gottfredson and Hirschi’s General Theory of Crime

Strain Theories

Merton’s Strain Theory

Agnew’s General Strain Theory

Aker’s Social Learning Theory



2. An African American Worldview

The Basic Premise of our African American Theory of Offending

The Racial Divide

Evidence of a General Racial Divide

Hurricane Katrina

Does race matter?

Success of the Civil Rights Movement

Reparations and Race Relations

The Racial Divide in Perceptions of the Criminal Justice System

The Racial Divide in Support for the Death Penalty

The Racial Divide in Perceptions of Injustice in the Criminal Justice System

The Racial Divide in Support for the "War on Drugs"

A Worldview that Is Shared Among All African Americans

Why African Americans Share this Perception of the Criminal Justice System

The Election of Barack Obama

Perceived Racial Discrimination

Would Employers Rather Hire Whites than African Americans?

Perceived Racial Discrimination


3. Perceptions of Criminal Justice Injustices and African American Offending

Perceptions of Criminal Justice Injustices

Why People Obey the Law

Procedural Justice

Legal Socialization

Perceptions of Criminal Justice Injustices and Defiance

Shame, Anger, and Defiance

Hirschi’s Control Theory and the Bond of Belief

Variations in African American Offending

Variations in the Degree to which African Americans Perceive Criminal Justice Injustices

Variations in Place

Variations in Defiance

Variations by Gender

4. Racial Discrimination, Negative Stereotypes, Stereotype Threats, and African American

Racial Discrimination and the General Well-Being of African Americans

Racial Discrimination and African American Offending

Racial Discrimination and Weak School Bonds

Stereotypes of African Americans

Prevailing Racial Stereotypes

Stereotypes and Offending

Stereotype Threat and Weak Social Bonds

Stereotype Threats

Stereotype Threat, Weak Bonds, and African American Offending

Pejorative Stereotypes and Offending


Gender and Crime

The Significance of Place


5. Racial Socialization and African American Offending


The Different Dimensions of Racial Socialization

Cultural Socialization

Preparation for Racial Bias

Promotion of Mistrust

Egalitarian Values

Racial Socialization and Racial Identity

Racial Identity and Offending

Racial Socialization and Gender

Racial Socialization and Social Bonds

Racial Socialization and the Black Church

Racial Socialization, Racial Discrimination, Hostility, Depression, and Offending

Coping with Racism

Our Theory on Racial Socialization and Offending

Racial Socialization and Weak Bonds

Gender and African American Offending

Drugs, Gender, and Crime

Racial Socialization, Place, and Offending

Why Place Matters

6. A Theoretical Model of African American Offending

The Unique Worldview of African Americans

African American Offending and Criminal Justice Injustices

Criminal Justice Injustices and Weakening the Restraints of the Rule of Law

African American Offending and Racial Discrimination

Negative Stereotypes

Individual Offending

Variations in Experiences with Racial Injustices

Variations in Racial Socialization

Our Theoretical Model of African American Offending

Gender and African American Offending

Place Matters

Differences among African Americans

Ethnicity and Immigration Status



Epilogue: Environmental Racism and African American Offending


Environmental Racism

The Empirical Research on Environmental Racism

Race and Proximity to Environmental Toxins

The Health Effects of Environmental Racism

The Deleterious Consequences of Exposure to Lead

Lead Exposure and Cognitive Impairment

Lead Exposure and Education

Lead Exposure and Crime

Lead Exposure and African American Offending

Environmental Racism and African American Offending

Our Theory of African American Offending

Environmental Racism and African American Offending





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James D. Unnever is a Professor of Criminology at the University of South Florida-Sarasota-Manatee. Dr. Unnever was the Recipient of the Donal A.J. MacNamara Award by the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences in 2009. The author of over 40 publications appearing in such journals as Social Forces, Criminology, Social Problems, Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, and Justice Quarterly, Dr. Unnever was ranked as the fifth most innovative author in criminology from 2000–2010. His areas of expertise include race and crime, public opinion about crime-related issues including the death penalty, the testing of theories of crime, and school bullying.

Shaun L. Gabbidon is Distinguished Professor of Criminal Justice in the School of Public Affairs at Penn State Harrisburg. Dr. Gabbidon has served as a fellow at Harvard University’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research, and as an adjunct faculty member in the Center for Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. The author of more than 100 scholarly publications including 50 peer-reviewed articles and 10 books, his most recent books include Race, Ethnicity, Crime and Justice: An International Dilemma and Criminological Perspectives on Race and Crime (2nd edition). Dr. Gabbidon currently serves as the editor of the new SAGE journal, Race and Justice: An International Journal. The recipient of numerous awards, Dr. Gabbidon was most recently awarded the 2009 W.E.B. Du Bois Award from the Western Society of Criminology for his outstanding contributions in the area of race, ethnicity, and justice.


"Race, Racism, and Crime offers an insightful account of why black Americans more often commit violent crimes than do members of other groups, and why most black people do not. It draws heavily on the American black experience and will become the standard work on the subject." – Michael Tonry, Law, University of Minnesota

"This book is a must-read for criminologists and sociologists. Although the book is written for social scientists concerned with explaining crime, it is likely to be of interest to anyone striving to understand the high amount of crime that exists in many African American communities. I look forward to using it as one of the texts in the criminology course that I teach."Ronald Simons, Sociology, University of Georgia