Minorities and the Criminal Justice System

I just went through a volley of exams, a term paper and still carry with me the symptoms of that killer flu I caught two weeks ago now. I am so happy that I have gotten through this portion of the term, but bitter that I have four more weeks to go–then exams. But today we had my minorities class, where we look at racism and cultural difference in Canada. This is a very powerful class to attend because it carries with it emotions and really makes everyone think about themselves, the people around them and the population as a whole.

After writing this latest paper for this class, I was struck at just how many injustices that still exists in a country such as Canada. Take for example how we and media view gangs in Canada. We all most always racialize them–with the exception of the Hells Angels. In every other instance we associate a cultural label to each gang. When police profile gangs, there is most always an ethnic slant attached it.

When I did some research on gangs in Canada, the ethnic labelling jumped right out at me. In the media there is most often an ethnic title placed before the word “gang.” Some critiques from the media even suggested that the majority of youth who migrate to Canada from non-European countries automatically fall into gangs. The numbers say that no one is disproportionately higher than anyone else (an ethnic group or otherwise) when falling into a gang lifestyle. This Toronto study says that, over all, there is only a 6.8 percent gang membership among youth who attend school and 16.2 percent membership rate if the youth lives on the streets–this transcends all ethnic and cultural strata (Wortley & Tanner, 2006).

So there is a myth here. I know from talking to inmates in prisons that they themselves were members of Asian gangs yet they are White.

One explanation could be that we, the White dominant culture, see visible ethnicity over all else, and this could explain why we profile ethnic groups with so much fear. Because of this, the ethnic groups become over policed and are constantly under surveillance from the White gaze (Symons, 2002, as inĀ  Chann & Mrichandani, 2002).

This is just all but one tiny example of what I have learned in this class so far. I wish that I had more energy to write more on this subject because it is a very powerful topic for me.

Reference:

Symons, Gladys (2002). “Police constructions of race and gender in street gangs.” in Wendy Chann and Kiran Mrichandani (Eds.) Crimes of Colour: Racialization and the Criminal Justice System in Canada, (pp. 115-125). Peterborough, Ont.: Broadview Press.

Wortley, scot & Julian Tanner (2006). “Immigration, socail disadavntage and urban youth gangs: Results of a Toronto-area survey.” Canadain Journal of Urban Research, 15(2), 18-37.

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