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All criminal statistics by and large leave a great deal to be desired. They are technically in many ways faulty and when it comes to the negro very many questions arise regarding the meaning of the statistics. So many in fact that we can't do more than indicate a few of them in this program. Crime and criminality among Negroes listeners this topic is investigated in another discussion of the Negro in America. The last citizen. The last citizen the Negro in America a series of programs devoted to the extension of our knowledge of the largest minority group in the United States its problems and the problems it poses to all Americans. The last citizen is produced by Radio Station WBA a Purdue University under a grant from the Educational Television Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. The discussions are the producer of the series E-W Richter and Dr. Louis Schneider professor of sociology at Purdue University. Today's program the negro the city and crime.
Here now is Mr. Richter. The criminality attributed to Negroes looms large in the thinking of many people. Today we take up the subject of Negro crime. In the first place. Lou it's my understanding that such the testicle material as we have seems to show that for example in cities negroes are criminally inclined far out of proportion to their representation in the population. I'm glad you've put this in such a cautious way by speaking of such statistical material as we have and saying that this material seems to show high criminal inclination on the part of the negro. Our criminal statistics by and large leave a great deal to be desired. They are technically in many ways faulty. And when it comes to the negro very many questions arise regarding the meaning of the statistics. So many in fact that we can't do more than indicate a few of them in this program. One might concern that the essential story of the Negro in relation to crime is really a quite simple clear and forthright thing.
The negro is far more readily arrested than the white man. The ordinary policeman is far less afraid of arresting a negro particularly in the South than he is of arresting a white man. He is far less fearful of overstepping the bounds of what he may legally do when he deals with Negroes than when he deals with whites. It's hardly a secret that judges on juries are frequently prejudiced against the negro. It would not be an easy thing to calculate the dimensions of what I might call racially displaced crime. By which I mean crime committed by white persons for which the Negro is punished. But there has undoubtedly been a great deal of it. The negro has been hunted kept in connection with parole. One might say by analogy with a phrase that has become so familiar to us in application to the labor market namely first fired last hired that in the spirit of Crime and Punishment the situation of the negro can be summarized in some such words as first arrested last released.
Necessarily I omit much but this is really the gist of the story. Whatever the details the elaborations on the explanations that a full story might have to present I gather than that particularly in the case of the negro you would question crime statistics insofar as anyone might contend that they were a true reflection of actual negro criminal behavior. But suppose for instance that Negroes were arrested on charges of rape ten times as frequently as whites taking into account different proportions of Negroes and whites in the population would this justify any statement such as Negroes are ten times as likely to commit rape as whites. I would be very dubious of a statement like that there would be difficulties anyway and taking all rests as indices of criminal behavior in general. But in the case of the negro more especially to interpret arrests for rape as anything like an index of actual behavior on the lines of rape would be almost speak ugly has us on a number of criminologists have indicated full
awareness of this. One for example sat on a stand on widely used textbook. It must be emphasized that mere fornication between a negro man and a white woman is apt to be dealt with as right and LaSalle. On the other hand whatever may be the true attitudes of Negro Women toward sexual relations with white men and whatever pressure may be brought to bear upon them to submit even when we're unwilling It is almost impossible for a white man and they convicted of the rape of a negro woman. As an aside let me remark that the case in Florida in 1959 in which several white men were given life sentences for the right of a negro girl shows the beginning of change in regard to this last night. But that is something else. It does seem pretty clear to take at face value. I was showing let's say 10 times greater propensity toward rape for Negroes than for whites. Arrest data which indicate that Negroes are 10 times more frequently arrested for rape than whites in relation to their
representation in the population is pure foolishness. Well I think the things you've mentioned so far a little simple though they be should be documented let's find some commentary on these matters. Can we reinforce at least some of these statements you've made. We could do that quite extensively. Let's start with an extract from an able discussion by the sociologist guy B Johnson of the Negro on crime. The passage I select has reference to the police. The police have an especially strategic position in the administration of justice variations in their activities can produce fluctuations and arrest to sticks which have no relation to the number of officers actually committed by mistreatment or brutality toward any group or class of people. They can even provoke or stimulate the commission of crime and they grow as more exposed to the misuse of police power than any other group. The police custom of arresting negroes on slight suspicion or staging mass round ups of Negroes is
definitely related to the negroes lack of security and his inability to exert pressure against such abuses. Police pretty generally feel it in making arrests handling witnesses and obtaining confessions they can use brute force against Negros with impunity in the interplay of behavior between the police and the negro suspects. There is a reciprocal expectation of violence. The police too quickly use a gun or club and negroes especially those with reputations as bad niggers are keyed to a desperate shoot first or you'll get shot psychology. Thus what starts out to be merely a question and arrest for a misdemeanor may suddenly turn into violence and the charge of murder against the negro. The experiences of negroes as victims of police mistreatment must give rise to considerable bitterness and the feeling that the law's on just these experiences and attitudes deserve careful study for they are undoubtedly contributory to
both the real and the apparent criminality of Negroes. Well on a side to the statement a comment made by Stossel pool assistant district attorney in San Francisco. There are various areas in which it must be said that the negro receives more than his share of attention from law enforcement. Obviously 10 persons walking down the street below us here. A negro stands out. He is he is identified. He is not a more posts like the other nine it's assumed they are white. Therefore if any suspicion at tends the actions of any of these 10 persons. The actions of the identified negro will stand out as if he were lit up in neon. Therefore he's more easy target for police attention. He
gets picked up. Easier. He has fewer resources both financially economically and in very often mentally because of his relative relatively lower academic and educational and social background. Therefore he tends to. Be more of a police problem for a longer period of time and to have less proportionate chance of so-called beating the rap than with his fellow white prisoner. And to this statement by Mr Poole let us add some comment made by Hubert Delaney on the background of his experience as a judge in the New York municipal courts and an informal chat Mr Delaney made it clear that he also thought that the Negro is more quickly and rapidly and readily arrested than the white
man more readily convicted and likely to receive a longer prison term. On this occasion however we wanted to get beyond these things and we ask why and Mr. Delaney's opinion the negro received the differential treatment. I think there are two reasons. One and probably the greatest reason is the reason that more poor white people. Are more frequently arrested and more frequently convicted and given longer sentences than the so-called white collar wealthy white person a person who hasn't got a job can be arrested for disorderly conduct. He's more likely to commit an offense against society and ought to be taught to be able to care for himself if he can't get a job. That's one reason. I think that we have been rid.
To have less sympathy for the so-called poor be you white or black. I think it's a part of our culture unfortunately that we tend to look off the end of our nose at those who have not had the same opportunities that those of us who have had the good fortune to be educated and have a cultural background. The other reason is that there is so much propaganda against Negroes. The stereotype propaganda that Negroes are innately lie is that they innately steal that they will cut you and that they will do other acts of violence. Make some judges who call themselves good judges think that the best way to deal with a negro who runs afoul of the law is to give him the longest punishment that they can. I find that last statement a very interesting one Mr. Blaney sees how a factor having nothing to do with race complicates racial problems we've encountered this sort of thing before in speaking about housing. It's really quite
important also in the area we're talking about today. The negro participates in the American culture. He is bound to be influenced by American values with regard to what is good worth while worth having. And ours is still a culture that places appreciate stress upon various material things that may be obtained with money but at the same time the Negro is by virtue of his low income low educational level and by virtue of other things still especially when they kept in the effort to obtain the so-called good things of life through legitimate channels. The more powerful he is imbued with the conviction that it is good to have material things such as swanky automobiles while at the same time as income and education remain at low levels. The more powerful becomes the temptation to reach for the so-called five things by means that are outside the law. I don't hear of a Negro was involved in a situation much like that which has been said to hold four numbers
of white people by some very capable social scientists. But we have to remember once again that the whole negro class structure is as it were low pitched and therefore the pressure to transcend legal means of obtaining things which negroes particularly hard. Always on the assumption that they have in fact been strongly imbued with the general values that emphasize the excellence of having fine material goods and things. What you're saying suggests that a little bit negro crime is at a higher rate and I to ality than that white crime. That is quite possible and even likely in some areas of criminal activity. Perhaps in a good money at the same time there are undoubtedly areas of criminal activity in which negroes are not well represented. Simply because they cannot be relatively very few Negroes for example could as individuals cheat the government of vast sums of money due on income tax. But let me return to my point.
I believe the situation I've described is real and it has its consequences. For example negro racketeers who make a good deal of money are often looked up to with admiration in the Negro community. In a less poverty stricken community they might be looked at as guns because of the shady or illegal way in which they make their money where the negro does not look askance at negro rockety as he is in a sense being a true American. He has admired the successful money maker under his perhaps too much to expect that he will always make the reservation not a successful money maker may not have come by his gains legitimately. That sort of reservation if you will is a bit of a luxury you can expect it more readily in a less poverty stricken community. But we can see in all of us the negro's very real cultural involvement his criminality and his admiration for at least some kinds of criminal or quasi criminal behavior are definitely bound up with a culture in which he has his being. Well this matter of the negro's cultural involvement is certainly an interesting thing. How else
would you say cultural factors are bound up with the negro's criminality. Well there are risks. Oh variety of things to be said in this connection for one the Negro in America emerges from the south and it is well known that the South has a long tradition of reliance on violence consistently for example rates for homicide have been considerably higher for the South than for other regions of the STATE OF THE NATION. Frontino conditions and the peculiarities of the slave institution no doubt contribute heavily to the situation. Well the cash in his mind of the South in one of his numerous references to violence in the south remarks however careful they might be to walk softly. Such men as these of the South will bottom to come often into conflict and being what they are simple direct and immensely personal and their world being what it was conflict with them could only mean first the Coffs the gouging ring and knife and gun play. Fronting a lawlessness on the
defenseless isn't the defenselessness of the negro had much to do. It's been suggested with a on amiable tendency toward lynching. Of course the negro was often the victim of lynching although he was hardly a Lowden. This the propensity to take the law into one's own hands made many others besides the negro victims of lynching. However what I wish to propose is that the Negro has suffered from the lynching tendency if I may take that as symbolic or indicative. In other ways than I was the direct victim of the aggression it represents. He himself has been influenced by the entire violence pattern knife toting gun carrying and readiness to engage in violence and lawless outbursts have gotten into the heritage of the negro and have landed him in trouble both inside and outside the South. And I want to stop you on this a little you speak of the negroes knife toting gun carrying and proneness to engage in violence is getting them into trouble. Well wouldn't you have to make at
least one qualification of this that is that a great deal of Negro lawlessness has been condoned in the south as long as it's been directed towards other negroes. I understand that there's been a good deal of this kind of thing. I think you're quite right the qualification is a necessary one. The relevant literature is filled with accounts for example of negroes who are at the same time gentle and self humbling in the face of whites but unrestrainedly aggressive in relation to other negro. It's one such negroes frequently get protection from white patrons will move my eyes their faults and even allow them to go scot free when they can when they have behaved feloniously and the article by gar Johnson which we've already quoted today Johnson makes this part and comment. Too many cases fit into the following pattern. The sporty negro butler for a wealthy white man is circumspect in his work but is considered something of a menace by his fellow negroes. He deliberately murders a Nigro
girl who has spurned his attentions. Being able defended by his employer he receives a light sentence for manslaughter and he scarcely begun to serve this when his employer obtains his parole because he is anxious not to lose in the GRO services. An interesting pattern I can't help wondering what this must do to the white man's own respect for law when it plots it in this way for the benefit of favored negroes whose crimes have only been against other negroes. But. Now another matter a little wouldn't this tendency toward violence even if it had been in the heritage of the negro also be bound up with class. Yes of course I wouldn't want to be misunderstood and I'm glad you bring this point up. There are middle class negroes whose behavior is as discrete and law abiding as that of anyone and I don't mean either that all lower class negroes are non-law abiding but the evidence we have does suggest that the tendency toward direct violent action is bound up with position in the class structure and that in turn I
suppose suggests the entire background of cities and slums. But now let's see how some of the things we've been speaking about may reflect themselves in the concrete life of the individual. In other words let's look at negro crime as it might appear say and the work of a novelist store and the casework of a social worker can we get something of a vivid detailed picture of an individual offender lol. I don't doubt that we care and there are case studies go to law that appear in the documents of criminologists and social workers and there's plenty of fictional material which rings us true as anything that you may find in the case studies. If we want to be vetted on concrete there's little I suppose that would fit our bill better than the virtually classic description of Bigger Thomas which Richard Wright presented native son. Let me draw on my memory of the novel what especially stands out now many years after my reading the book is scenes like these. Bigger faces and kills a dangerous rat in the vermin infested dwelling in which he lives bigger and the number of
friends looking for the sky and was probably watching airplanes which they know of course are piloted by white men. One of the boys make some comment to the effect that it would be a wonderful thing for a negro boy to be able to pilot one of those jobs. But this brings on a sad cynical response. These boys know that they are cut off from such possibilities. Begger has killed a white girl. This murder has to be seen against the background of what his life has been a life of poverty and a life that grinds every one of his aspirations into the ground. And then a girl finally sees it in this way. And until they are the horror of his lawyer a white man and he takes satisfaction in his crime. It is as if he were saying this here now all my life I've sought for outlets for ways of being myself but I was never able to find anything that would really meet my needs. And yet I'm Bigger Thomas. I mean I I've got to express myself some way. The act of killing this girl was something that I
did. It expressed something of me that has a genuineness that I won't repeat it. I can take satisfaction that the act has my mark on it. Whatever you may say I can't be sorry I did it. If creativity means anything this was my creative act. Well as I understand it through the blocking of shall we say normal outlets this boy's individuality and creativity and express themselves and the utterly perverse form of murder. Yes I think this is what Wright was trying to tell us and the implication is that in a different more congenial more acceptant meet here or set up Bigger Thomas might well never have come to the kind of action in which he engaged. I think of course that it was as far as possible from Wright's mind to condone murder. But I do believe the artist sometimes was to make murder understandable to us and one might add that he was. Allow me to put it this way Radha gruesomely successful when you emphasize making criminal actions understandable right now. I can't help thinking that we've
said nothing about Negro family background. Recognizing that we still don't know with the precision we'd like just what the causal factors and Crime and Delinquency are. I'm still very much aware that many authorities regard family background as an one way or another and in varying degrees quite important in relation to Crime and Delinquency. Hence I'd like us at this point to listen briefly to one of the country's authorities on the Negro family doctor in Franklin Frazier. It may sound Stockton to someone to realize that in most of our cities. Large cities especially about 30 percent of them they grow families have a female head. Now I have this female here it isn't due to widowhood because that would imply a terrific death rate among negro husbands. It's due to a number of factors it's due to the fact. That illegitimacy is still high among Negroes and therefore the woman bears the responsibility for children.
It is also due to the fact that negro has desert in fairly large numbers it's hard to get an exact measure of that but I would say that desertion causes a large number of Negro Women to be responsible for their family so that we have this phenomenon of about 30 percent of Negro families in many of our large cities with a female head. Now anyone realizes that that is an extremely normal condition. It said normal in the sense that it must have tremendous consequences for the rearing of children not only the breakdown of family discipline where there is no man present. Not only that the child is neglected. Because. The mother must work but also in the personality development of Negro Chu. There is no male model in the home. They help
in molding this child's personality and probably someday some social psychologist will make a study to show the influence of female dominance and they grow fabulous upon the personality development of negroes especially when they grow male. Would you like to comment on this a little bit as what Dr Fraiser says bear on Negro Crime and Delinquency. Well as you suggested yourself we might certainly have more exact on ambiguous knowledge of Crime and Delinquency than we do. The notion that family factors and influences are often Plotinus in connection with Crime and Delinquency has some support and is in at least some degree plausible. But I must strongly stress that we need much more and more accurate knowledge in these matters. If for example as Dr. Fraser contends negro boy so often like male models just what does this mean and exactly what way may it be an incitement to delinquency. What it invariably leads to delinquency
if so why. If not why not. If delinquency is sometimes an outcome of such a situation what other things may be associated with such a situation. There are countless other questions that suggest themselves away and need them to know more than we do. But would you not say that we have at least some fairly good general understanding of factors that impel the negro to Crime and Delinquency. Yes I think I would on Lost factors would include a good many more things than we've been able to mention. The cultural backgrounds of the negro over the oppressed class and status situation of the whole Negro community. Such factors as the heritage of lawlessness which we have mentioned the frequent abruptness of the transition of the Negro from a rural and Southern environment to our northern or Western and urban one needs to be sure. Numbers of other things make negro crime and excessive negro crime where that exists reasonably comprehensible I take it then that you would not find it any more necessary here than elsewhere to suppose or presume that the Negro has an innate or
inborn qualities that propelled him in the direction of Crime and Delinquency. No I see no reason for making such a supposition or holding to such a presumption. Then do you think that it would be a fair inference that if and when the negroes criminality as high for example this would be due to factors that would make the crime rates of not negroes also high. If the non negroes were subjected to the special conditions that may inflate negro crime rates I think that this would be a pretty fair inference. You might remember that in a previous program we noted that according to the researches of some of the older Chicago social scientists there are so-called pathologies like high crime rates high rates for certain kinds of mental illness and so on which tend to be peculiar to areas of the city rather than to any particular nationality or racial group. And as various groups move out from these areas they tend to slough off the pathologies which remain in LEO area. I would suggest that there are still gives us a
pretty good basic model in terms of which to conceive some of the problems which we've been discussing today. There was no compelling reason whatever to think that the shape of Negro crime would not change as the negro's cultural and social circumstances changed. Well thank you Mo. Today we have discussed the matter of crime among Negroes. Our guests today were Mr Stossel pool assistant district attorney and San Francisco judge Hubert Delaney of New York City and a Doctor Franklin Frazier chairman of the department of sociologist sociology rather at Howard University. Next week we touch on Negro culture as we take up the matter of Negro churches religious life and church activities. When Friday to join us then as we continue to delve into the life and problems of the Negro in America the last citizen and honored
Louis who ordered. You have been list name for Doctor Louis Nizer Besser and sociology at Purdue University and the program producer director W. where they discuss. The last. Bit of. The program work produced them recorded by WBA with the university under a grant from the Educational Television Radio that. Is being distributed by the macula focus of educational rocket. This is the end E.B. Radio Network.
Last citizen
The city and crime
Producing Organization
Purdue University
WBAA (Radio station : West Lafayette, Ind.)
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program focuses on African Americans, urban environments, and crime.
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A series of programs devoted to exploring the problems facing African-Americans and how these issues impact all Americans.
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Social Issues
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Guest: Frazier, E. Franklin, 1894-1962
Guest: Poole, Cecil F., 1914-1997
Guest: Delany, Hubert T.
Host: Schneider, Louis
Producer: Richter, E.W.
Producing Organization: Purdue University
Producing Organization: WBAA (Radio station : West Lafayette, Ind.)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 59-50-12 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:02
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Chicago: “Last citizen; The city and crime,” 1959-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed February 29, 2024,
MLA: “Last citizen; The city and crime.” 1959-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. February 29, 2024. <>.
APA: Last citizen; The city and crime. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from