Neal Lecture Features Discussion on 'Trends in Violence'
March 09, 2011
Jack Levin, The Brudnick Professor of Sociology and Criminology at Northeastern University in Boston and co-director of the Center on Violence and Conflict at Northeastern University spoke about "Trends in Violence - American Style" during The Sister Marie Augusta Neal, SND Lecture on February 28th in the Janet M. Daley Library Lecture Hall.
Levin shared shocking statistics of violence that exist in the United States, which has a murder rate nearly double of any other western industrialized nation. He cited five major factors for the country's elevated homicide numbers: guns, income inequality, the subculture of violence, eclipse of community and excessive national publicity. While the availability of firearms appeared to be the most logical reason for such statistics, Levin stressed that it does not tell the whole story.
"We can't blame it on guns, I wish it were that simple," he said. "The U.S. non-gun homicide rate is still higher than the overall murder rate of any nation, so even if we got rid of guns we would still have a high rate of violence."
Levin highlighted trends of income inequality since 1970, which he says shows a "shrinking middle class," and the impact it has had on building a subculture of violence, especially in poorer regions of the country. He pointed out that most murders occur in the Deep South where there are greater levels of poverty as well as more people likely to own arms.
"It is very hard to separate the subculture of violence from poverty," he said. "We really don't know which one it is, but there are a lot of criminologists that say it is this inordinate feeling that you have to protect your dignity when it is being challenge and you do it through the barrel of a gun."
In discussing national publicity, Levin emphasized how the growth of mass media has contributed to murderers gaining a significant level of celebrity status in the U.S. He used Cho Seung-Hui, the gunman who broke from his shooting spree on the Virginia Tech campus in 2007 to mail video of himself to NBC, as an example, and showed slides of playing cards and t-shirts of famous serial killers available for purchase.
"You can be inspired by people you have never met and who live thousands of miles away thanks to cable television and the Internet more than anything else," he said.
The Sister Marie Augusta Neal, SND Lecture is dedicated to promoting the social justice mission of Emmanuel College. This annual lecture honors one of Emmanuel's most esteemed graduates and faculty members, Sister Marie Augusta Neal, SND '42, who influenced several generations of students and scholars worldwide through her inspirational teaching and her numerous groundbreaking publications on social justice and change, and women in the church.