Tuesday, September 23, 2008

South Carolina: The Most Violent State

Though it is unsettling to hear that South Carolina is once again one of the most violent states, it can be understood by this writer. Crime and deviance, though related, are two distinct concepts. Deviance refers to violations of rules that govern our thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors. Crime is any act that violates a criminal law which is broken down into two categories, violent offenses, crimes against others, and non-violent offenses, crimes against property. Knowing this, we can determine that all crimes are deviance, but not all deviance is criminal in nature.

Deviance and criminality are high in South Carolina based on statistics and therefore such behavior can be seen as social pathology. People that prescribe to this pathology consist of criminals, mentally ill, drug abusers, and other deviances and can define many reasons why such behaviors exist in our society. In many cases, it is a part of their upbringing, or more to the point, lack of upbringing. The rights of passages of old African tribes are no longer what they were. Black men now see such passages as going to jail, being shot or shooting someone.

Labeling theories indicated that deviance and criminality are attributes primarily associated with the African American population. In viewing it in that way, a person who does not adhere to this stereotypical view must then be viewed as deviant, at least deviant to the defined social perspective.

Social stratification is also a main contributor to the statistics that label South Carolina as one of the most violent states. Social stratification is a form of inequality in which categories of people are are systematically ranked in a hierarchy on the basis of their access to scarce but valued resources. Though it happened a long time ago, the aftermath of slavery seems to still have an impact on society in South Carolina. Here in Charleston, I am reminded every day as I drive downtown that slavery was a cornerstone of this society. Though no one in the city of Charleston were slave owners, nor was anyone a slave, the defined role of the ancestry has a large impact on the roles people play in this society.

Black people strongly contribute to the violent crimes which indicated South Carolina as one of the most violent states. These Black people see circumstances that they do not know how to get out of through socially acceptable means. If jobs and resources are scarce, is it not only natural for one to do what they have to do to survive? If there are no jobs available in the area which can provide for your basic needs, what is one to do? If the resources are stretched so thin, and the laws circumvent any thought of familial unity, what is one to do in order to benefit those that are dependent upon them?

At one time, I thought criminal acts and acts of deviance was a learned behavior or something an individual did just they wanted to, but have found out recently that men, with no criminal records, a strong family upbringing, and high level of education, often to think to resort to such paths. Why? Because of socialization and networks which shut them out, that keep them out, and therefore manifest a type of control over them. If opportunities are not made available, then opportunities must be made. If such opportunities can not be created, then what? Criminality? Deviance?

The disturbing thing is that many Black males are proud of this declaration that South Carolina is one of the most violent states. What happened to us to make us proud of such an insult? What happened to us?

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