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AN ELABORATION AND CRITIQUE OF “REASSESSING ‘TOWARD A THEORY OF RACE, CRIME, AND URBAN INEQUALITY’”

  • María B. Vélez (a1)

Abstract

In the prior article in this volume, Robert Sampson and colleagues (2018) take theoretical and empirical stock of a framework they presented twenty years ago. They find broad empirical support for its core tenets. Differences in disadvantage explain most, if not all, observed gaps in violent crime between Black and White neighborhoods; disadvantage also operates similarly to foster crime in Black and White areas. The authors also lament the limited research on the key intervening mechanism of community social organization, particularly its cultural and political sources, that links disadvantage to crime. I have two primary goals in commenting on this article. First, in keeping with their assessment, I provide my take on their agenda for extending the framework beyond the Black-White divide, giving greater attention to the political sources of community social organization, and considering reciprocal relationships between crime, race, and disadvantage. Second, I elaborate on how my views differ from Sampson and colleagues’ regarding strategies to empirically validate the racial invariance thesis, the breadth of support for the thesis beyond its core tenets, and the role of culture. I provide these critiques to encourage further work exploring the explanatory power of Sampson and colleagues’ thesis, and, to thereby foster a better understanding of enduring inequities in violent crime between racialized minority populations and Whites. Without their ecologically-based approach, we run the risk of essentializing minorities as criminogenic, like recent work espousing cultural (devoid of structural) and biological (devoid of social) explanations for the race-crime link.

Copyright

Corresponding author

*Corresponding author: María B. Vélez, Department of Sociology, University of New Mexico, 915 Roma NE Ste. 1103, Albuquerque, NM 87131. E-mail: mvelez@unm.edu.

References

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