American Skinheads: The Criminology and Control of Hate Crime

American Skinheads: The Criminology and Control of Hate Crime

American Skinheads: The Criminology and Control of Hate Crime

American Skinheads: The Criminology and Control of Hate Crime


The author presents historical specificity for a modern theory of hate crime, then rigorously tests the theory with interview data derived from skinheads who have committed an array of violent acts against persons because of their race, religion, or sexual preference--the classic "outgroups" of American society.


The shameful ironies of history are sometimes extraordinarily revealing. In the city of Dresden, the target of America's most vicious firebombing in World War II and the setting for Kurt Vonnegut masterpiece, Slaughterhouse Five, groups of shaved-headed youths gyrate and scream to music proclaiming racism, white power, and death to immigrants. Are we witnessing an aberration that will capture the imagination and devotion of a few angry youth or is this the first stages of a mass social movement with an ideology rooted in hatred and paranoia?

Americans for the most part live in a cocoon; they are oblivious to the consequences residing in changing political and economic forces beyond the shores of California or New York. The collapse of the Soviet empire and the destruction of the Berlin Wall proclaimed by left and right alike as a victory for democracy brings with it the most serious threat to democracy and world peace in sixty years. From today and into the next century, millions of poor immigrants from Eastern Europe will make their way across borders to the countries of Western Europe; Germany will suffer the burden most heavily, but all European nations will be affected. Symbolically closing the borders will not work; no state can provide the intensive surveillance of its borders that would be required to stem the human tide of desperate people.

It is absolutely certain that one reaction to the influx of immigrants competing for scarce jobs and even scarcer resources will be that segments of the middle and working classes of Europe will blame the victims of seventy years of Soviet economic failure. The middle and working classes' humiliation, shame, and rage at being unemployed or poorly paid will be directed against the immigrants. The music of the skinheads will appeal to their worst fears, and provide a rationale for their plight and a solution to their problems.

Ambitious and ruthless politicians will seize the opportunity to gain political power. What is today a relatively minor social movement has the potential to become the major social problem of the next century.

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