Stereotyping happens all the time, more than people seem to believe it does. Appearance, location, and race all deal with how people as well as police authority characterize individuals without truly knowing how that person is. Race is one of the biggest factors when it comes to criminalization because of what people see on the media and from what they are told. It usually is the younger generation that are viewed as criminals not only because of where they live and who they associate themselves with, or with what is seen on the media but also because some young people come from a family history of criminals.
The issue here is that not all young people are criminals; but when living in an area that is known for high crime rates, and viewed solemnly on their skin color to determine whether they are criminals, it’s not easy for them to live each day fearing for their life and being harassed by the police. Even though people can at times determine if someone is affiliated with a gang, or if they are “not good news” meaning they appear to be someone involved in crimes, the media plans a major part in these determination of people.
According to Victor M. Rios in Punished: Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys he states, “Often, it is the media and politicians who become central players in determining who or what becomes the moral panic of the time” (7). They inscribe into people’s minds that the usual ideal appearance of a criminal is a certain race, age, also determined by where they live, and how they dress. Usually the targeted races are Blacks and Latinos with few Whites or other races, (18). The issue with race and crime is that two people from different racial backgrounds can commit the same type of crime but one race will be punished harsher.
Rios states, ” Latinos have a higher chance of being arrested, incarcerated, and convicted then whites do for similar offenses, but they do not face the same severity as do blacks” (18). This shows that crime in certain matters does not determine what punishment someone will get but race will. The media is a source of contribution to how society believes that police figures should punish certain races because they believe that a certain race is more of a threat to them and their community than another race.
In spite of the media and police authorities determining who are the main race/group of criminals; this does not take away from the other issue that youngsters face. Even though they come from a area of high crime rates, and/or come from the same racial background that is sought out to be a threat to others, a wide group of these youngsters are ones that are not involved in any act of crime, or gang, they go to school, and participate in community programs, but yet are still stereotyped as criminals because of their appearance.
According to Rios who interviewed a boy named J. T. he states, “Despite actively avoiding delinquency and never being arrested or suspended, J. T. believed that sometimes he was treated worse than his delinquent peers” (143). J. T. also told Rios that even though he tried to stay away from trouble, authority figures often implicated him in the deviance and crime that his friends committed, (143).
This was a boy who got good grades in school, had a mother who worked hard, who did what she could to discipline him well, and who participated in an afterschool program at the ESYC, but since he had friends who were involved in gangs, or other types of crime he was also seen as guilty. Many young boys try and avoid contact with the police because they do not want to get punished for something they had no part in, yet these boys still encounter contact with the police and are punished, (146).
No matter how much a non-delinquent grows to better themselves they still are faced with criminalization from society and police authority and this is due to the stereotypes that many people claim upon certain races and we focus on believing it. Yes this generation has many delinquents and especially in areas that have high crime rates, but not all are delinquents, we are just sought out to believe that only certain races, and ages are criminals.
Nowadays many young people do not like school and drop out, many of them come from a poor family and seek to commit crimes to survive, many want to be part of a family so they join gangs. But whatever the circumstance that these young people face their punishment seems to be faced on race, and appearance not so much on what type of crime happened. Even the ones who avoid trouble are still punished solemnly because they are stereotyped to be criminals on how they look and what their race is.
Rios, Victor M. Punished: Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys. New York: New York UP, 2011. Print.