Unraveling Deepening Urban Inequality

Unravelling Deepening Urban Inequality

Equality is still a relative concept within the contemporaneous society and however we strive to achieve it, there are numerous situations in which implicated parties are not treated equally. Historically, the matter of social and economic inequality has been viewed from numerous perspectives and the scholars have even forwarded conflicting opinions.

The issue of inequality is obvious in all countries across the globe, but even more so in democratic regimes, such as the one implemented within the United States. Here, equality is considered a positive social feature, but the competition for better jobs and higher salaries has turned individual attention from it and has made us focus more on achieving economic superiority, generating as such inequality.

The most disadvantaged population has undoubtedly been the blacks, who had to struggle for centuries for equal rights. They managed as such to make their voice heard; they abolished slavery and they gained equal rights to voting or employment. The question being posed however relates to the actual improvements in their status. Did the black in fact manage to achieve equal statuses with the whites or does an inequality still exist? In order to answer this question, one could analyze the specialized works of various researchers who have dedicated years to the study of the issue. Two most relevant sources of information are James Jackson's African-American Prospects in the 21st Century: A Framework for Strategies and Policies and Hawkins and Herring's Race, Crime, and Punishment: Old Controversies and New Challenges.

2. Overview

The authors of Race, Crime and Punishment: Old Controversies and New Challenges look at the matter of social and economic inequality from the perspective of crime rates. "For much of U.S. history, crime and punishment have provided some of the most publicly visible and horrific icons and symbols of the ethnic, racial and social class inequality and conflict within U.S. society" (Hawkins and Herring). This inequality revealed by crimes and punishments has generically led to the formation of two groups, the whites vs. The blacks, or the Anglo vs. The Latino.

Historically, the American jails and prisons used to be filled with people of Irish origins and then with people coming from southern Europe. These foreign born individuals were more likely to engage in criminal actions than the native born residents in the U.S. The most crimes were committed by Irish, Italians, Jews, Greeks and Poles.

Increased crime rates were also looked at from a racial perspective. This revealed high rates among the African-American communities, much higher than the crime rates within white communities. Consequently, the measures implemented saw the severe punishment of the black criminals. And their punishment occurred in both courts and on the street. The measures soon gave birth to a racial bigotry, most frequently felt before World War II, but also common in the decades between the two world wars.

Whenever a breaking of the law occurred, the justices at the time would be quick to blame it on the blacks. And even if a white man was found guilty, the punishment he was being subjected to was milder than the punishment given to a black for the same crime. This once again proves the race inequality revealed by the 20th century.

But the blacks were not the sole population which received special treatment relative to crime. In the years following the Civil War and before the commencement of the 20th century, American justices ordered the imprisonment of numerous Chinese, Japanese or Mexicans.

The reasons forwarded for the discrepant crime rates among communities include the minorities' depravation of financial wealth and political power. Scholars of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century believed as time would regulate these matters, the inequality racial between would become reduced.

3. Current Situation

Today's criminal system prides on treating all criminals and suspects equally and establishing their punishments based on the gravity of the crime, not the race of the criminal. The specialized literature on the matter has however continued to analyze the issue and the primary change has resulted in a more direct and open approach. "As American society begins the new millennium, the legal, public policy and social scientific debates over how race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status affect crime and punishment - far from being artefacts of the past - continue largely unabated" (Hawkins and Herring). Also, today's topics of research are highly similar to those of the past century and some specialists have found that little has changed in the benefit of minorities. This then means that the inequality is becoming even more obvious as time goes by.

However the situation of the blacks has suffered few changes, the literature concludes that the status of white immigrants to America has indeed suffered modifications for the better as the number of imprisoned Chinese, Japanese, and even Mexicans has decreased. This is probably due to an increased emphasis on the causes which led to growing crime rates among these minorities and also, due to the increasing living standards of these minorities. Consequently then, it can be said that the inequality gap between American native born whites and white immigrants to America has widened as a result of improving socioeconomic status among immigrant minorities.

Aside from the improving socioeconomic status of the minorities, other features have supported their battle for equality. One such feature for instance could be the more liberal political policies, which themselves promoted racial equality. The American constitution promotes freedom of speech, and this, combined with the increasing financial resources of the minorities, has led to more protests and other political manifestations, which had the ultimate purpose of militating for the rights of minorities. This also generated a slight reduction in the inequality gap between native born and immigrant Americans.

But despite these measures, the improvements were slight. In the context of crime rates and punishments, an inequality is still obvious. It is best manifested by the following:

increasing crime rates among American cities, most obvious within the poorer communities - the felons are generally the underclass youth the war on drugs has taken a racial turn as more and more blacks are being convicted for possession and traffic of cocaine; this force has also been emphasized by the fact that law enforcements often target the African-American inner communities in their search for drug use, possession and distribution the American legislation has enforced punishments for numerous petty crimes and as a result, the number of inmates in federal prisons has significantly increased - the growth is most obvious within the African-American minorities (Hawkins and Herring)

The above stated features reveal differences between whites and blacks, but the inequality is becoming more and more obvious between black groups as well. This can be exemplified by the fact that crime rates and police raids mostly occur in poor black communities. The wealthier blacks have become detached from these matters. Ultimately, this means that once again the socioeconomic status has lead to the creation of inequality, but this time it is not a racial one, as both extremes are African-Americans.

Historically speaking, the specialized literature approaches similar problems relative to racial and urban inequality. A more modern research topic is that of the effect this inequality has upon the poor black communities. The negative effects may easily result in crime victimization among African-American neighbourhoods or the ignoring of the black victim.

More specifically, the criminal system discriminates against the blacks as they are generally perceived as criminals and register high rates of return in correctional institutions. Then, the children of the poor black are often discriminated against in the schooling system by both peers and teachers. Social service institutions may also tend to discriminate against the poor black, voting in favour of aid being granted to the poor whites. These, and other, downsides are often the results of…