Racial Innocence: Law, Social Science, and the Unknowing of Racism in the US Carceral State

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Abstract

Racial innocence is the practice of securing blamelessness for the death-dealing realities of racial capitalism. This article reviews the legal, social scientific, and reformist mechanisms that maintain the racial innocence of one particular site: the US carceral state. With its routine dehumanization, violence, and stunning levels of racial disparity, the carceral state should be a hard test case for the willful unknowing of obvious devastation. Nonetheless, the law presumes "no racism," condones racial profiling, and interprets racial disparity in policing and imprisonment as evidence of true racial difference in criminality, not discrimination. Prominent social science research too often mimics these practices, producing research that aids in the collective erasure of racism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)473-493
Number of pages21
JournalAnnual Review of Law and Social Science
Volume15
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 13 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law

Keywords

  • abolition
  • antidiscrimination law
  • colorblindness
  • criminal justice reform
  • racial liberalism
  • racism

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