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Race and Youth Policy: working with young people
Race and Youth Policy: working with young people

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3 Themes of race and risk within youth policy

A major policy theme over the past decade during the period of the coalition government has been the focus on so-called ‘gangs’, thus highlighting the relationship between race, policy and injustice. Smithson and Flint argue that:

The governance of young people’s behaviour through the imposition of increasingly punitive measures needs to be viewed in terms of the messages they send out about young people by increasing fear and intolerance and also the degenerative effect they have on relations between young people and those organisations [which] seek to control them.

Smithson and Flint (2006, p. 36)

Analysis of youth policy and its growing preoccupation with risk helps in seeing the close relationship between our understandings of young people and their lives, and the priorities of policies directed towards them. Usually, these initiatives seem to involve persuading young people to improve their ability to overcome the risks through education and training, or constraining them through the criminal justice system when these fail.

Young men, particularly those from a Black or Asian background are viewed as high risk groups, and via youth policy is articulated through the gang and Prevent agendas. Prevent was first launched in the UK in 2003 as governmental response to the 9/11 Twin Towers terrorism attack in the USA. It is viewed by many as a vehicle to justify the surveillance of Muslim people, particularly young Asian men, and has resulted in negatively labelling Muslim Asian youth as a ‘problem’.

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Find out more [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] about how the Prevent strategy resulted in a thirteen year old boy being asked if he was affiliated to the jihadist group Islamic State.