Race and racism


In this chapter, we trace the prevalence of racism in the legal arena and assess the circumstances under which such racism is most likely to occur. By doing so, we do not mean to imply that all racial disparities in the system—including those related to wrongful conviction—are attributable to racism. However, given that other chapters in this volume touch on race as it relates to other issues, such as eyewitnesses and at-risk populations, we focus our present analyses on the matter of racism. Much of this analysis will focus on differences in how the system treats White and Black individuals, as this racial dichotomy has influenced decades of research in the social sciences. At the same time, more recently researchers have argued that the analysis of racism and discrimination in the legal system must be expanded to include members of other minorities, such as Hispanics and Asian Americans. Less data exist on this question of other racial and ethnic groups outside of White and Black groups, but when possible, we explore this literature as well. We examine current theoretical explanations for racial bias and prejudice and examine psychological mechanisms and social conditions that contribute to racism in various legal contexts. We focus on attitudes toward the legal system, issues of racial policing, juror decision making, and racial bias experienced by legal actors (attorneys, court employees, court users). We then review psychological research that demonstrates how racism can be reduced and offer examples of how this research can be applied to the legal system. Finally, we offer conclusions that draw explicit links between the present analysis of racism and this volume’s more specific focus on wrongful conviction. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)



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American Psychological Association

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Book Chapter