Racial Blindsight: The Absurdity of Color-Blind Criminal Justice
21 Pages Posted: 12 Aug 2007
There is a phenomenon known as blindsight in which a supposedly blind person accurately answers questions about what he insists he cannot see. Blindsight can have physical causes, beyond the sufferer's control, and psychological causes. In the latter situation blindness is, in a sense, chosen. This article uses the blindsight phenomenon as a metaphor for understanding one role of race in the criminal justice system: a form of subconscious bias, a truthful insistence by many of the actors in the system that they see no injustice when, in fact, they do. The article explores the temporal component of racial blindsight too, examining hindsight, now-sight, foresight, and faux-sight. The article offers illustrations involving racial impact statements, anti-integrationist violence, facial profiling, and lower court resistance to modestly progressive death penalty decisions concerning race by the United States Supreme Court. This brief piece serves as an introduction to a symposium on race and criminal justice for which the author has served as editor.
Keywords: blind, blindsight, sight, race, racial bias, subconscious bias, discrimination, Einstein, hate crimes, integration, facial profiling, racial profiling, death penalty, racial impact, racial impact statements
JEL Classification: K14, K41
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation
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By David Bjerk