Gangs revisited: what's a gang and what's race got to do with it?

Document type
Joseph, Ian; Gunter, Anthony
Runnymede Trust
Date of publication
1 November 2011
Runnymede perspectives
Young Offenders, Children and Young People, Minority Groups
Social welfare
Material type

Download (880KB )

This report critically assesses the substantive ideas that have developed in recent times on serious youth gang-related violence in the UK and examines how race and ethnicity has largely been down-played by policy makers and academics and hysterically overplayed by the media. It points out that liberal left anti-racists (Runnymede included) have failed to develop a convincing counter-argument to the cultural explanations popular with politicians and the right-wing press which link violent crime to young people. Perhaps consequently, we find ourselves in a position where anti-racist campaigners deny any role of culture in crime patterns, whereas the right-wing press revels in asserting over and over again that black cultures are inherently criminogenic. The authors helpfully suggest that we need to strike a balance between acknowledging the problem and not being hysterical about it. In order to find that balance, we need a frank debate on the relationship between structure and culture, and how particular aspects of this discussion have influenced policy for better or worse. This challenging paper throws up several important questions on where the debate is currently going, and why the authors think we have reached an impasse.

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