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What Are The Effects Of Linking Crime With Ethnicity?

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There has been a large upsurge in hate crime and the marginalisation of communities within the general public as a result of racialisation of crime (Bleich, 2011). This essay will discuss how linking crime with ethnicity homogenises entire races as inherently criminal and evil and will explore the key problems that occur as a result of the racialisation of crime such as, geographic issues, operational issues, notions of whiteness, construction of the folk devil and concept of the feared other (Collins, Noble & Poynting, 2000). This essay will specifically focus on the term ‘Middle-Eastern’ and Muslims with reference to examples from the ‘Australian News’ who link crime with ethnicity in their titles and anti-halal protesting.

There term ‘Middle-Eastern’ appearance is problematic in nature because of its lack of geographical specification (Collins, Noble & Poynting, 2000). The notion of the Middle-East was created by the European, segregating the middle and Eastern region of Europe from central Europe to form what we now know as the Middle-East (Lockman, 2009). The use of this ethnic descriptor depicts the dominant notion of whiteness and how people who hail from the Middle-East deviate from norm (Lockman, 2009). Not only does using this descriptor create a geographic net, painting all people from this region with the same brush, but it also subjects them to being judged based on their physical appearance/features. In doing so, the concept of whiteness is reinforced as normalised and an invisible standard of measure in comparison to other races (Poynting, Noble & Tabar, 2001). In an article by the Australian News, the use of the ethnic descriptor ‘Middle-Eastern’ in the title ‘The rise of Middle-Eastern crime in Australia’ depicts the entire group of people as criminals by linking the rate of crime in Australia with ethnicity and subjecting the entire race to racial profiling. The ambiguity regarding the lack of geographic clarity hence, implies that all people from this region look similar enough to be able to be recognised by their ethnic background.

Moreover, the use of ethnic descriptors can also cause operational problems which are split into three sub-issues. Firstly, the use of ethnic descriptors homogenises entire races in relation to crime (Poynting et al. 2004, p. 12-13). The racialisation of crime promotes the view that certain racial groups are criminally dispositioned through fallacy composition (Melnick, Duncan, Thompson. Wexler, Chaple & Cleland, 2011). Many media outlets put out articles linking crime with ethnicity such as the article from the Australian News that was mentioned previously and another article titled ‘Middle-Eastern man shoots three in California’ by the LA Times (Ren, 2018). Here it is evident that through fallacy of composition, an entire race been homogenised as ‘Middle-Easterners’ and as the racial group most disposed to commit evil (Melnick et al. 2011).

Furthermore, this homogenised group of diverse individuals is classified as the opposition to the norm, in other words opposition to dominant notion of whiteness (Collins, Noble & Poynting, 2000). The notion of whiteness is an incredibly one-dimensional concept as it is regarded the norm and any person who does not carry Anglican features is therefore classified the other. This notion of the other is created to allow ‘white’ people to project their fears and anxieties on another object whilst hiding the racialised suppositions that lie beneath it (Collins, Noble & Poynting, 2000). Moreover, many of the acts and traditions that are associated with other races are also perceived as evil (Poynting et al. 2004). Muslims account for 94.51% of the population in the Middle-East and therefore many Islamic practises are associated with ‘Middle-Eastern’ people (Hotex, 2016). This is evident with the religious practise of eating halal food. Many Facebook pages such as ‘Boycott Halal in Australia’ and protests against Halal food have been set against these practises associated with ‘Middle-Eastern Muslims’ (Facebook, 2019). Much of this rhetoric is pushed forward by our nationalistic politicians, such former Senator Fraser Anning and Senator Pauline Hanson who attempt to invoke fear against other races. (Gale, 2004). When reading comments on the Facebook (2019) page about why people are anti-halal, responses such as “halal certification funds terrorism” and “we don’t want to be ruled by Shariah law”, were recorded. These claims have been refuted on many occasions, one widely known occasion being on ‘The Weekly’ where Charlie Pickering, debunked all claims and assured viewers that halal food was no more than a particular way of slaughtering animals which is the least cruel for animals and the cleanest for people to eat ABC iview, 2015). Nonetheless, many Australians still view halal certification as evil and a way of Islam dominating the West (Al-Natour, 2010). Hence, not only has the racialisation of crime homogenised ‘Middle-Easterners’ as being inherently criminal but has also stigmatised many peaceful practises such as eating halal food as demonised.

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Next, ethnic descriptors invoke fear into the minds of the public creating a ‘folk devil’; “An object of hostility that could bear the brunt of social anger and be seen as the wrongdoer or cause of the social condition” (Cohen, 2011; Poynting et al. 2004, p. 13). Typically, folk devils are created when a social threat is constantly played in the media as the topic of controversy, in this case people of ‘Middle-Eastern’ appearance are the folk devil (Al-Natour, 2010). During times of panic, the creation of folk devil allows the public to target all the moral and social anxieties towards an object of hostility. This is done by isolating or ‘othering’ racial groups that are viewed as dissimilar from the cultural norm (Al-Natour, 2010). The ‘Middle-Eastern’ descriptor encourages notions of ‘otherness’ in the minds of the public while developing the conception of the folk devil and creating fear of people from foreign places (Cohen, 2011). The use of ethnic descriptors results in the construction of orientalism (Poynting & Morgan, 2016). This is conceived as being a political move to allow for Western society to dominate by stigmatising other racial groups with evilness and criminality. In doing so, cultural panic target and scapegoat racialised communities (Poynting & Morgan, 2016). This is evident in the News Australia article and is also reflected in the anti-halal food protests which are fuelled by the media. Thus, the folk devil and its influence in creating an orientalist construct, feeds cultural panic and justifies hostility towards targeted racial groups, which has detrimental effects on the people subjected to racial profiling.

Moreover, the NSW police force and other enforcement bodies use a number of ethnic descriptors when forming an ‘identity-kit profile’ of suspects (Dreher, 2010). With reference to article mentioned previously, the Middle-East is a vast region with people hailing from various ancestries and different histories, which has inappropriately been compiled into a single category (Poynting et al. 2004). The ‘Middle-Eastern’ descriptor has homogenised the entirety of people who are of ‘Middle-Eastern’ appearance as being inherently criminal (Poynting et al. 2004). The media and racial profiling have played a major role in the exponential rise of stop and searches of innocent people, simply because of their physical appearance which classifies them as different (Dreher, 2010). This comes full circle with the creation of the folk devil and the orientalist construct. Ryan Al-Natour (2010) mentioned in his work that Australia is a nation that relies on fearing others which is evident with the nation’s fear of the Indigenous community of Australia, the Italian Mafias, the Asians and more recently ‘Middle-Easterners’ and African gangs. This is also a concept depicted throughout Pauline Hanson’s political career where she first insighted fear against the indigenous community, then the Asians who she claimed were going to take over Australia and leave Australians unemployed and now ‘Middle-Easterners’ and Muslims who will take over the west with violence and shariah law (Gale, 2004). This reinforces the fact that Australia has constantly relied on having a folk devil to aim their anxieties and fears onto. The consequences of these this on victims of racial profiling, which isolates them from the general public, includes severe emotional and physical damage (Gale, 2004).

All in all, linking ethnicity to crime by the media, politicians and law enforcement bodies have homogenised entire races as being inherently criminal through fallacy composition, invisible standard of whiteness, construction of folk devil and the orientalist construct. There is irreversible damage of the racialisation of crime on the victims of racial profiling by made to feel as the ‘other’. Although this essay speaks specifically to the ‘Middle-Eastern’ ethnic descriptor and Muslims, this is not to say that they are the only two groups affected by the racialisation of crime. Many other groups including, African, Indigenous Australians and Asians are also affected by it (Gale, 2004). At the moment, there is no legislation in the Racial Discrimination Act (1975) that enforces penalty for the use of ethnic descriptors when classifying criminals. Considering the arguments and the evidence in this essay, it is apparent that it is necessary for the prohibition of ethnic descriptors to be enacted in legislation to minimise the negative effect of linking crime with ethnicity on people who are subjected by it.

his work that Australia is a nation that relies on fearing others which is evident with the nation’s fear of the Indigenous community of Australia, the Italian Mafias, the Asians and more recently ‘Middle-Easterners’ and African gangs. This is also a concept depicted throughout Pauline Hanson’s political career where she first insighted fear against the indigenous community, then the Asians who she claimed were going to take over Australia and leave Australians unemployed and now ‘Middle-Easterners’ and Muslims who will take over the west with violence and shariah law (Gale, 2004). This reinforces the fact that Australia has constantly relied on having a folk devil to aim their anxieties and fears onto. The consequences of these this on victims of racial profiling, which isolates them from the general public, includes severe emotional and physical damage (Gale, 2004).

All in all, linking ethnicity to crime by the media, politicians and law enforcement bodies have homogenised entire races as being inherently criminal through fallacy composition, invisible standard of whiteness, construction of folk devil and the orientalist construct. There is irreversible damage of the racialisation of crime on the victims of racial profiling by made to feel as the ‘other’. Although this essay speaks specifically to the ‘Middle-Eastern’ ethnic descriptor and Muslims, this is not to say that they are the only two groups affected by the racialisation of crime. Many other groups including, African, Indigenous Australians and Asians are also affected by it (Gale, 2004). At the moment, there is no legislation in the Racial Discrimination Act (1975) that enforces penalty for the use of ethnic descriptors when classifying criminals. Considering the arguments and the evidence in this essay, it is apparent that it is necessary for the prohibition of ethnic descriptors to be enacted in legislation to minimise the negative effect of linking crime

References

  1. Bleich, E. (2011). The rise of hate speech and hate crime laws in liberal democracies. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 37(6), 917-934.
  2. Cohen, S. (2011). Folk devils and moral panics. Routledge.
  3. Dreher, T. (2010). Speaking up or being heard? Community media interventions and the politics of listening. Media, Culture & Society, 32(1), 85-103.
  4. Facebook. (2019). Retrieved from: https://www.facebook.com/BH.Australia/
  5. Gale, P. (2004). The refugee crisis and fear: Populist politics and media discourse. Journal of sociology, 40(4), 321-340.
  6. Hotez, P. J. (2016). The world’s great religions and their neglected tropical diseases.
  7. Lockman, Z. (2009). Contending visions of the Middle East: The history and politics of Orientalism (Vol. 3). Cambridge University Press.
  8. Melnick, G., Duncan, A., Thompson, A., Wexler, H. K., Chaple, M., & Cleland, C. M. (2011). Racial disparities in substance abuse treatment and the ecological fallacy. Journal of ethnicity in substance abuse, 10(3), 226-245.
  9. Poynting, S., Noble, G., & Tabar, P. (2001). Middle Eastern appearances:“Ethnic gangs”, moral panic and media framing. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Criminology, 34(1), 67-90.
  10. Poynting, S., Noble, G., Tabar, P., & Collins, J. (2004). Bin Laden in the suburbs: Criminalising the Arab other.
  11. Poynting, S., & Morgan, G. (2016). Introduction: The transnational folk devil. In Global Islamophobia (pp. 15-28). Routledge.
  12. Racial Discrimination Act. (1975).
  13. Ren (2018). Middle-Eastern Man shoots three in California. https://australian-news.net/article/the-rise-of-middle-eastern-crime-in-australia
  14. Youtube (2015). Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ATLHNgC0W1c

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