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Social Conflict Theory Essay

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Updated: Apr 30th, 2019

‘Outrage, protests grow over shooting of unarmed Florida teen’; CNN.com 21st March 2012. A statement showing the relationship of facts is called a theory. A theoretical approach is the picture of society which determines its views and research.

The structure for setting a theory which views society as a ring of inequality which bears conflict and change is known as a social conflict approach. The factors of a social conflict are inequality, power, influence, competition and abuse. Social conflict results in ethnicity, racism, social classes and gender inequality among others.

Social conflict theory is based on Karl Marx’s theory of social conflict. Marx shows that there are inequalities between different groups in society, for example, poor and rich. Karl Marx used social conflict approach to learn more about society and introduce changes to reduce the gaps between different groups.

On 26th February, 2012, George Zimmerman, a white male neighborhood watch leader shot dead Trayvon Martin a 17 year old Black teenager. Trayvon had left a convenience store with a packet of candy and ice tea when Zimmerman rang the Florida police emergency line. He described Trayvon as a ‘suspicious man’. Trayvon who wore a hood was unarmed at the time of the shooting, but Zimmerman claimed he shot Trayvon to defend himself (CNN 2012).

The social conflict approach assumes that a society is an intricate unit where inequality and conflict co-exist to create a social change. There is unequal distribution of power and rights among the members of a society. The distribution of power and rights is based on social classes, race, gender and sexual orientation. According to Karl Marx one needs this approach in order to understand and change the society.

Race conflict approach focuses on inequality among people of different racial and ethnic background. The majority groups usually have an advantage over the minority group. For example, White people have an advantage over black people in America in schools, income, health and social status. In the CNN article, the teenager who was shot dead by a white man was black. The perpetrator (Zimmerman) of this tragedy has not been arrested (Macionis & Gerber 2010).

The family and community of Florida claim racism played a major role in this tragic event. The Black teenager who wore a hood was unarmed at the time of the attack, but Zimmerman described him as a ‘suspicious person’. This has sparked debates on whether a black man wearing a hood qualified him as a criminal.

They also claim that the police’s action of not arresting Zimmerman is racist. They claim that if Trayvon was white then Zimmerman would be arrested. Perpetrators of criminal acts against whites such as robbery, rape, and murder are quickly punished. However, when blacks are attacked the criminals are not taken into custody or convicted. This disparity has caused a rise of crimes in black neighborhoods more than in white neighborhoods.

In the concept of crime and criminology, hate crime is a criminal act against another because of their race, ethnic background or social class. A crime is behavior which is against social norms of a society. Hate crime has become extremely prevalent in society today; the FBI records show high rates of hate related crimes in the USA. The criminal acts are motivated by prejudice and intolerance to members of a group.

There was a large crowd of people who protested by marching the streets of New York dressed in hoods; the attire Trayvon was wearing on the day of the shooting. According to the article the protesters claimed the crime was racist, and it targeted the black people. There is an infringement of rights of the blacks because the culprit has not yet been arrested (CNN 2012).

A labeling theory defines people according to their behavior and characters. For example, a young Black man who grew up in a city of gangs is labeled as a gang member. Identification of people by these characters and behaviors ends up making them deviant. Zimmerman labeled Trayvon ‘a suspicious person’.

According to the article demonstrators wore hoods and carried skitters while chanting ‘Am Trayvon Martin, I am a suspicious person, will I be next?’ the demonstrators also claimed that a black person wearing a hood was not automatically a suspicious person. This shows that Trayvon was labeled as a criminal because of his race and his dress code and this led to his tragic death.

According to the article, George Zimmerman’s racial identity is unknown. Zimmerman’s family says that he is a Spanish speaking minority but other reports indicate that he is a white male. The family goes further to say that he is not a racist and that he has friends from the minority groups.

Zimmerman’s use of racial remarks is yet to be confirmed by the court. Meanwhile, the US department of justice has launched civil rights investigations into the matter. The shooting of the black teenager affects the whole Florida community whether Black or White and not the victim’s family only.


CNN Wire Staff. (2012). Outrage protests grow over shooting of unarmed Florida teen. Web.

Macionis, J & Gerber, L. (2010). Sociology. Web.

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