If you try and key in ‘racial disparity in arrests’ in any search engine – be it Google, Bing, Yahoo or DuckDuckGo, you will be surprised at the plentiful availability of the results that supports the correlation between arrests and people of color. According to a research published by the the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) research about race and crime, African Americans get arrested more for minor offenses such as possession of marijuana and loitering than any other minorty group and Asian Americans get arrested the least. Huffington Post and USA Today are amongst the major mainstream media websites to have increased awareness of the report.
I think this issue has a lot to do with stereotypes, schema and social psychology.
During my senior years in college, I remember that the the first chapter we talked about was about schemas. Schemas are, according to Wikipedia:
“…an organized pattern of thought or behavior that organizes categories of information and the relationships among them. It can also be described as a mental structure of preconceived ideas, a framework representing some aspect of the world, or a system of organizing and perceiving new information.”
Under the ‘schema’ topic, we have something called ‘stereotype’, which is defined in Wikipedia as:
“…a thought that can be adopted about specific types of individuals or certain ways of doing things. These thoughts or beliefs may or may not accurately reflect reality.”
Schema is one of the very important lessons in social psychology because it rings true of how the society thinks. We have specific set of characteristics attached to a certain group – both pleasant and unpleasant, especially amongst races and cultures. Each race has its own set of traditions, cultures, and beliefs therefore we tend to ‘stereotype’ different races or cultures. For example, we advert to Asians as hardworking, values-oriented, have strong family ties and intelligent however, Asians can be austere, monotonous and ‘they look the same’. Those can be referred to as stereotypes of Asians. Whenever we meet an Asian on the street or have an Asian friend, we intitially tend to think of Asians this way.
So, what does this have to do at the topic at hand? Plenty, actually.
We simply cannot deny the fact that we have associated African American people with crime that it has become a stereotype to the certain American minority and, on the other side of things, the stereotype reflects in how law enforcement officers conduct arrests and charges. A black man is more likely to be more arrested than a while man. In popular culture, the stand-up comedian Dave Chapelle did a skit about the situation as well. Point is, the stereotypes have reached a level where people generally accept it. Also, remember 2015’s Black Lives Matter protest? There seems to be an unrest between the African American community and law enforcement officers and the evidence is all there, in that research and the problem seems to be growing worse.
It seems really unlikely that we can try to predict an outcome for the results of the succeeding years conducting the same research. We can try to do something about the issue but that would entirely depend on our next step on how we try to combat stereotyping but, in the purest naturalistic observation of human interactions,.it seems that stereotypes can be pretty hard to deal with and people will continue sticking to whatever stereotype they know.