Racism and discrimination in the broader societal context have been linked both theoret- ically and empirically to differential rates of offending. As with self- and official-report statistics, little has been studied regarding the perceived or actual effects of racism on youth of color who are not African American. This is a gap in the literature that clearly should be addressed; however, what is summarized in this chapter is mainly specific to African American youth.
Feld (2003) identifies a political and media tendency to exaggerate the percentage of young offenders who are violent and African American; policies that are “tough on crime” therefore constitute camouflaged racism entrenched in the political and cultural landscape. In elaborating on the experiences of African American youth, one study demonstrated that emotions such as anger and depression tend to mediate the relationship between discrimination and criminal behavior. Examining school data in Florida, Eitle and Eitle discovered that episodes of school violence were most likely in schools that were desegregated but existed in a larger community context of racial inequality. This adds support to the theory that racist and discriminatory practices at the macro level contribute to severe delinquent behavior. Caldwell, Kohn-Wood, Schmeelk-Cone, Chavous, and Zimmerman collected data from African American youth transitioning from high school to young adulthood and found that having faced discrimination was associated with a higher likelihood of having committed violent acts. They concluded that vio- lence may be conceptualized as a maladaptive but understandable response to racism in society.
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