American Heart Assoc.

The controversial issue of race and crime

by | Aug 16, 2017 | Opinion

By Alex R. Piquero

Professor of criminology and associate dean for graduate programs at UTD

This is not a column that is against Michael Vick’s participation in the Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship with the Kansas City Chiefs. Nor is it a column that supports Vick’s participation as a coaching intern under coach Andy Reid.

Instead, I’m writing about the complicated story underlying Vick’s crimes, his criminal justice punishment, his reinstatement into the NFL and his future as a citizen — whether that includes coaching high school, college or professional athletes, or working at Starbucks, selling life insurance or handling bags for a large airline.

There is no need to rehash Vick’s atrocious participation in animal cruelty. He served over a year and a half at a federal penitentiary followed by a three-year probation sentence. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell conditionally reinstated Vick, and he signed and played with the Eagles from 2009 to 2012 under Reid, then another year after Reid’s departure.

As a criminologist, I have long been interested in the very controversial issue of race and crime. I love the game of football, and I also happen to love dogs. I put those interests into a study published in Social Science Quarterly that I conducted with several colleagues in which we sought to examine attitudes toward Vick’s criminal justice punishment and his subsequent reinstatement.

During the fall of 2009, we collected data via a random-digit dial sample of 420 adults and asked them two straightforward questions: Did participants think “Michael Vick’s criminal punishment of serving 18 months in prison for running a dogfighting ring for years” was “too harsh,” “too soft” or “just right”? And did they “agree with the NFL commissioner’s decision to allow Vick to return to the NFL”? Response options were “disagree” and “agree.”

Initially, we found that only 12 percent of respondents thought his punishment was “too harsh,” with the remainder evenly split between “too soft” or “just right.” Respondents were also slightly more likely to agree with Goodell’s reinstatement decision. Yet when we considered whether there were race differences with respect to these responses, we were struck by the findings.

We found that 31 percent of non-whites thought the punishment was “too harsh,” but only 9 percent of whites felt the same way.

When it came to Vick’s return to the NFL, 71 percent of non-whites agreed with Vick’s reinstatement, compared to 53 percent of whites.

These findings say a lot about attitudes toward punishment, and they say even more about attitudes toward re-entry and the ability to earn a living. And echoing a lot of what we see today about people’s experiences with the criminal justice system more generally, it showcases the important divides in how people perceive the system punishing offenders and subsequently reintegrating them back into society.

Were those attitudes about Vick driven by race? Or were they driven by the image of dogs abused and slaughtered? Or were they driven by something else? That is hard to discern in a survey, of course, but it does raise a host of many interesting questions.

There is a memorable scene in Disney’s “The Lion King,” in which Rafiki tells Simba, “Oh yes, the past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it.” Vick will never escape his past, one that he has acknowledged, served his sentence for, and returned to society by becoming involved in many ways to educate both the public and himself about his incomprehensible behavior.

For more stories like this subscribe to our print or e-edition.

NTMWD Plant Smart 2024

0 Comments

Related News

Texas could face long-term water supply deficit

Texas could face long-term water supply deficit

Texas is facing a reckoning on water that we must address if the state wants to secure its future prosperity. The State Water Plan prepared by the Texas Water Development Board projects that Texas faces a long-term water supply deficit of 6.9 million acre-feet in 50...

read more
Hogging the channels

Hogging the channels

 I have a lot of my grandparents in me. I’m cheap. I also love the Arkansas Razorbacks. Nowhere is this truer than when it comes to radio, television, and an Arkansas game. I grew up listening to free radio and watching free television. So, the idea of paying...

read more
Laundry: There’s more than one way to fold

Laundry: There’s more than one way to fold

You would think that there’s only one way to fold towels. But, you’d be wrong. Growing up in Ashdown, Arkansas, my momma showed me how to fold them, as well as shirts, socks, underpants, and other personal sundries. I assumed that this skillset would carry me all the...

read more
The Lawn Moore

The Lawn Moore

America really is The Land of Opportunity. Even if there’s only one opportunity, and that opportunity is cutting the grass.  Ashdown, Arkansas, was a pretty typical small American town in the 1960s and 1970s.  Kids weren’t just handed things. If we wanted...

read more
A myth understanding

A myth understanding

In the South, we believed with all of our hearts what we were told when we were children. Even if it was wrong. In the 1960s, the RCA color console TV my family had on Beech Street in Ashdown, Arkansas, could make you go blind. It could if you believed what our mom...

read more
On the road again and again

On the road again and again

Back in the 60s, some American college kids protested the Vietnam War, but mostly, they conducted sit-ins. Few protests were violent. Other American college kids would have contests to see how many of them they could cram into a Volkswagen. Today, some college kids...

read more
Aisle be seeing you

Aisle be seeing you

As a child growing up in Ashdown, Arkansas, we had two main grocery stores. Shur-Way and Piggly Wiggly. Or as my dad called it, “Hoggly Woggly.” A trip to the store was like each TV commercial had come to life. Advertising agencies at the time were very good at what...

read more
Just plane fun

Just plane fun

My wife and I are scheduled for an Alaskan cruise in the fall. By all accounts, it’s something to which we should look forward. I’ve been told the same thing about other trips, including a Vegas excursion that included a stay at a strip motel that still had beds that...

read more
Fixer Uppers

Fixer Uppers

Recently, I saw something I haven’t seen in many years. A young man driving a car he was fixing up. It was an older Mustang. By older I mean a 90’s model. The car had spots of primer, there were a few dents, and the exhaust system appeared to be loose. By John Moore...

read more
Who’s counting when it comes to columns?

Who’s counting when it comes to columns?

When this newspaper column began in 2014, my wife asked me a question. Wife: “How long do you intend to write this column?” Me: “Oh, I don’t know. I guess I’ll write 500 of them and then hang it up. This column is number 500. By Bob Moore For more stories about the...

read more
Subscribe 300x250 - Love