1st Edition

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

By James D. Unnever, Shaun L. Gabbidon Copyright 2011
    288 Pages
    by Routledge

    306 Pages
    by Routledge

    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.




    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






    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