Armchair Sociology: Broken Windows Theory of Discrimination.

broken_windows (1)

(x-posted from U.S. of J)

To sort of second Neil’s observation about the power of anti-bullying/anti-prejudice norms to “have a broad and beneficial societal impact,” I’m pretty convinced that you can apply the “broken windows” theory of crime to overt prejudice and the treatment of minority groups.  That is, and as I’m sure you all know, the “broken windows” approach holds that urban crime is facilitated when small problems are left to fester.  When broken windows are left unfixed, streets unswept and minor crimes unpunished, criminality – the theory goes – is encouraged.

It’s easy to see how this applies to the treatment of minorities: when governments give official – or even unofficial – sanction to discrimination against minorities, it creates a very real sense that “those people” are fundamentally other, and as such when dealing with them, overt prejudice or violence is socially acceptable.  By contrast, with governments explicitly protect minorities and enforce anti-discrimination laws, that explicit stance of anti-discrimination on part of the government can, over time, transform into a more general anti-discrimination and pro-tolerancenorm among the population at large (as we’ve seen in real-time beginning with the civil rights legislation of the 1960s).

3 thoughts on “Armchair Sociology: Broken Windows Theory of Discrimination.

  1. […] is because prejudice is already a trait of that society’s culture. Besides, it can be applied to overt prejudice and the treatment of minority groups. Violence stems from failed institutions and lack of civic […]

  2. […] um traço da cultura daquela sociedade. É o caso do racismo no Brasil. Essa teoria pode ser usada contra a discriminação aberta e na proteção a minorias. A violência nasce da falência das instituições e da falta de […]

  3. ladyfresh October 19, 2009 at 6:23 pm Reply

    so…would you apply this to say the class action lawsuit i just read about involving terri woods

    I read it as an annoying but quite typical door behavior at NY clubs but this puts a different spin and lends it an odd gravitas.

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