Difference between Race and Deviance

Difference between Race and Deviance

Race is one of the ways a person identifies another in society. The racial profile of an individual depends on a variety of factors, including but not limited to: family history, cultural practises, language, and physical appearance. Youth deviance, on the other hand, encompasses the anti-social tendencies of young people with their peers and society in general. It is the behaviour or actions which violate the social norms (Dondanville 2017).  The anti-social behaviour is defined as actions which are likely to cause harm, harassment, or distress to certain members of the society. There is no biological explanation of race, although people have learnt to attach the physical and behavioural attributes to it (Shiao et al. 2012: 71). This paper will draw from the insights of various case studies to analyse race and youth deviance. Also, the article will offer ideas on the historical and social construction of race. Race and youth deviation are closely related, with the majority of the youth susceptible to showing anti-social behaviour also experience the problem of racism in social institutions in their lives.

Ideas on the Social and Historical Construction of Race

The construct of race has historically varied across time and location. For example, the United States law of the early 20th century did not recognise people of Irish, Italian, and other light-skinned groups residing in the country as white (Haenfler 2013: 65). The constitution of 1789 authorised exclusion from citizenship resulting in the enslavement of Americans of African descent. Also, the law relegated the conquered indigenous tribes to a dependent status in the country. Amendments to the constitution of 1790 enhanced the colour bar, limiting the right to naturalisation to the free white people in the country only (Hughes 2007: 210). The race was also a determinant in the voting rights in the country. For example, suffrage was extended to all male, white groups of the population but taken away from some black males who previously enjoyed the right to vote (Fredrickson 2005: 1). The U.S. law at the time accommodated the desire of the Southern states of the federal union to confine the people of African descent to a life of servitude.

Historically, the wording of the U.S. Constitution gave every person born in the Union equal treatment in the eyes of the law. However, the provisions of the 1789 document also left some loopholes for manipulation of the racial agenda. That particular constitution perpetrated exclusions and inequalities of a person based on race and colour (Fredrickson 2005: 2). The law at the time used some euphemisms to refer to the institution of slavery. In application, however, it instituted a colour bar to determine how various groups of people were treated under different circumstances. For example, each slave was to be counted as three-fifths of a person for the purposes of taxation (Fredrickson 2005: 2). Moreover, some enactments denied the federal government the power to legislate against the institution of slavery as it existed under federal law. The development of the concept of race to determine social and political participation of various citizens was hinged on their racial background (Smedley 2018: 23). Therefore, numerous places around the world, one’s race determined the type of work, the level of voting rights they would be entitled to, and the nature of social interaction.

Case Studies on the Relationship between Race and Deviant Behaviour

There is a growing body of evidence which examines the effect of racial profiling and its intervening effects on deviant peers. Individuals who are labelled as abnormal are at risk of committing anti-social behaviours and subsequently offending those surrounding them. The persons accorded the deviant label are likely to develop the same antisocial identity, resulting in being cut-off from the conventional society (Chavez and Rocheleau 2017:3). Also, these individuals are at a significant risk of being embedded into a deviant social group, therefore increasing their chances of committing crimes on society. The self is a social product according to the tenets of the social theory (Sutherland and Cressey 2009: 18). As such, the youths in a social environment are likely to commit crimes if the adults label them deviant. Overall, individuals develop an identity that is consistent with the labels of the other people within their surroundings.

Also, a society which labels its youth as outsiders is likely to experience consequences regarding the execution of anti-social activities. Some of the results include an increased level of deviant tendencies, a sustained pattern of aberrant activity, and movement into a public organised deviant group (Morning 2007: 473). The abnormal behaviour of a person may arise from a variety of reasons. For example, a person could portray unusual characteristics depending on a wide array of social, psychological, and cultural contexts (Chavez and Rocheleau 2017:3). The crucial aspect of determining if an individual shows a pattern of deviant acts lies in the labelling process. Once a person is tagged as abnormal, he is likely to engage in acts of deviance with increased intensity and frequency. The label also provides a form of guidance regarding predicting the likelihood of future offending (Chavez and Rocheleau 2017:4). A negative social identity is likely to spur higher participation in future acts of deviance. The taking part in deviant acts among the youths inspires a stronger labelling, a factor which increases the return to anti-social tendencies.

There is credible evidence linking the youth to deviant social behaviours especially from unstructured interactions with their peers. More time spent on the unstructured socialising with the peer groups is directly related to higher delinquency rates. Groups of youth shunned by the pro-social tend to turn to the deviant networks as a means of support (Chavez and Rocheleau 2017:4). Ultimately, they have to choose between living their lives in an atypical fashion or not. The associations with the deviant groups also teach the potential offenders to continue carrying out their behaviours while minimising a backlash from the conventional society (Chavez and Rocheleau 2017:4). Therefore, the deviant identity becomes solidified once an individual is part of a deviant social group. The access to the deviant groups provides a leeway for the youth to engage in criminal behaviour. While empirical studies regarding the relationship between getting shunned by the society and criminal tendencies remain inconclusive, what is clear is that the label embeds the individuals further into the deviant social groups.

The association of race with criminal activities has a close link with deviant tendencies. For example, among the African Americans in white-dominated countries, experiencing racial discrimination and negative labelling is a reliable indicator of crime rates and delinquent behaviours (Burt 2009: 1). The aspects of racial discrimination induce feelings of anger, stress, frustration, sadness, and anxiety. The General Strain Theory (GST) explains the tendencies to degenerate to violent behaviour by linking the stressful result of racial discrimination to violence and deviant tendencies (Burt 2009: 25). The theory explains that experiencing stress causes distress, especially psychologically. Anger occupies a central role in the GST as it affects a person’s ability to engage in constructive problem-solving techniques positively.  Additionally, the frustrations and anger impair a person’s ability to rationally calculate the costs of undertaking a criminal activity (Machery and Faucher 2005: 1215). Further, it creates a desire for revenge and fosters the belief crime, and delinquent behaviours are justified (Burt 2009: 26). The psychological disturbance caused by racial discrimination energises an individual for an adverse deviant action. Additionally, anger disrupts the cognitive processes of coping and creates a sense of power and control. As such, an individual feels a strong feeling to act in an anti-social manner to correct perceived racial injustices (Beckett and Herbert 2009: 14). Racial profiling is, therefore, an equivalent of a deviant behaviour which in turn makes the racially profiled individuals to join the deviant social groups and engage in negative anti-social behaviours.

Belonging to a particular race in various countries where racism is a prevalent problem is a strong factor behind the tendency to act in a deviant fashion. The anger from racial discrimination inspires an emotion for corrective action, with the deviant behaviour one the coping mechanisms (Gelder 2007: 34). The results are that an individual may attempt to direct their anger to a substitute component in the social setting. The deviant responses to stress and discrimination vary from being retaliatory, instrumental, or escapist (Burt 2009: 27-28). The fear and psychological discomfort caused by racial discrimination predict deviant behaviours of the youth later during their lives. The unjust agents of stress are likely to induce the feelings of angry reactions, making the individuals likely to resort to deviant tendencies as a coping strategy (Gauntlett 2008: 15). Overall, the relationship between race and aberrant social behaviour lies in the fact that racial discrimination induces feelings of stress, consequently driving the individuals to embrace deviant strategies as a coping mechanism.

The African minorities are subject to a greater deprivation of resources and are likely to experience more notable instances of social isolation compared to Hispanics, Asians, and other racial groups. As such, the burden of violent crimes and other anti-social behaviours falls more heavily on the black community than any other race (Ulmer, Harris and Steffensmeier 2012: 1).  A definite racial disadvantage creates resentment, frustration, and alienation, all factors which show a great preponderance to deviant behaviour (Ulmer et al. 2012: 3). The structural disadvantage between races erodes the informal mechanisms of social control, therefore fostering favourable conditions for violence and deviant behaviours. Among the African American neighbourhoods in the United States, for example, violence is widely accepted as the standard way of life in these communities. The racial segregation and concentrated subcultural adaptations play a significant role in tolerating violence and deviant behaviour (Lavoie 2012: 243). The question of race in fostering the perverted behavioural agenda is, therefore, anchored on how the minority societies are made to feel in an environment dominated by the majority racial groups.

The smaller components of the structural disadvantages compared to racial discrimination such as poverty, and unemployment all negatively contribute to the lack of social control. Consequently, the majority of deviant behaviour is concentrated in these areas where the populations feel neglected and at a clear disadvantage compared to the rest. It, therefore, follows that the feelings of neglect and abandonment encourage anti-social behaviours. The formal labelling of the various racial groups is likely to result in instances of social exclusion. Chavez and Rocheleau 2017 reckon the severity of labelling and social stigma is expected to lead to higher cases of secondary deviant behaviour among the people of the white race compared to Hispanics and African Americans (p. 6). The anti-social consequences of receiving a deviant label vary in different races. Also, the implications of accepting a deviant label vary according to the nature of the offence committed. Therefore, the propensity of a particular race towards experiencing the negative effects of structural disadvantages has a direct influence on deviant behaviour in society.

The structural forces which shape the exclusion tendencies in a white-dominated society is a reason for the youth of colour to be vulnerable to the effects of deviant behaviour. Associating the minority youth in a country with a wrong group further reinforces the deviant label as an internal attribute (Chavez and Rocheleau 2017: 7). Conversely, among the majority white youth, a close association with the deviant peers could be viewed as a reflection of social and external influences, rather than an internal characteristic (Chavez and Rocheleau 2017: 7). Consequently, the wrong label on the African American youth leads to a higher prevalence of secondary deviant behaviour among the members of this particular racial divide. As such, the structural forces which determine the isolationist tendencies in the modern world unjustly contribute to the anti-social behaviours among the minority groups.

The Construct of Race in a Schooling Discipline

The cohorts of people who blend in contemporary society meet the set standards of acceptability. Unfortunately, for a majority of non-white youth in predominantly white countries, the standard of acceptability is white. Subsequently, the young people of colour in these countries face a higher degree of scrutiny from the authorities both in the learning institutions and outside. The young people are subject to a variety of labels from the media and the stakeholders in the various institutions. Zevallos (2017) reckons that the majority of the labels of deviance emanate from lobbying by the interest groups as they try to protect their elite interest. In a school environment, the discriminative laws targeted at specific groups of people reinforce the values and interests of those in power. Eventually, the social constructions of deviance based on the race of the minority groups affirm the decision of the minority.

The concept of affirmative action especially in the institutions of higher learning appears to be a hugely divisive construct in the United States Critics, who happen to be the majority, argue that the move provides an unfair advantage to the minority groups. The proponents of the idea believe that the policy allows the government to provide equal opportunities to the disadvantaged members of the society (Figueroa 2011: 23). The criticism levelled against affirmative action in the schooling discipline shows the profound extent of racism in American institutions (Noorwood 2017). The contemporary is becoming more dependent on knowledge and education. Therefore, giving fair opportunities to the communities who have historically been the recipients of structural imbalances should not be a divisive topic. The reality is that the low grades posted by the students originating from the minority groups are a summation of their inferior access to educational resources compared to the dominant white race.

The structural imbalances present in modern societies today are characterised by a shortage of skilled teachers and a low-quality curriculum. Consequently, the difficulties some of these students experience are a result of factors outside their control (Gauntlett 2008). The affirmative action offered to them in the institutions of higher learning equalises the lost opportunities and gives them a fair shot in life (Noorwood 2017). The fact that the racial majority is fundamentally opposed to the idea only serves to highlight the predicament of racism which minority races have to endure in the discipline of education.

The desire by the stakeholders in the white-dominated schools in countries such as the United States to integrate the learning process has failed significantly. Previously, the state pursued a segregated system of schooling based on the colour of one’s skin — the essence of the Brown Vs. Education board to achieve an integrated system of learning in the public institution has all but proved futile (Noorwood 2017). The main reason is that the students of minority races such as Hispanics and African Americans who dominate the public schools in the country. The better economic conditions the whites allow them to access private schools, which are better equipped and have better-trained teachers. The structural inequalities minority races suffer in the white-dominated societies still reflect in the schooling education. Surprisingly, the learners of colour experience the inferior quality of education compared to their white counterparts despite protective laws in place.


A close relationship between race and deviance exists, especially since the minority youth show anti-social behaviour due to racial discrimination they get from various social institutions. Various assertions such as the labelling theory explain the construct of racially-motivated profiling as behind deviant social practices among the youth of colour. The concept of race has evolved gradually in history. Even in countries which have made significant progress in tackling racism and the discriminations faced by the minority people of colour, the reality is subtle structural disadvantages hamper the development of the minorities. As such, there is always a risk of still falling to the trap of deviant behaviours especially for the young. The structural weaknesses in the society result in poverty and unemployment, therefore driving the rates of crime upwards as the disillusioned youth try to seek an escape from the realities of their torture.

Various case studies on the relationship between race and deviant behaviour reckon that those linked with anti-social tendencies will always lean towards them. The possible rationale for this explanation is that the deviant groups offer a leeway to forget the negative perceptions by society. Youth perceived as outsiders by the community on the basis of their race tend to experience stigma and open hostility from the dominant races. As such, feelings of stress and anger develop into a desire to try and correct the wrongs of society. The feelings of rage give the youth power and inclination to perform the deviant act. Therefore, the race of a person suggests a close link with deviant behaviour; with minorities’ involved antisocial tendencies as a result of a sense of injustice. Also, the people of colour generally experience poor quality of education compared to the whites, despite existing laws designed to provide equal educational opportunities.



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