Interrogating Racial Violence

39 Pages Posted: 24 Jan 2015

See all articles by L. Song Richardson

L. Song Richardson

University of California, Irvine School of Law

Phillip Goff

UCLA Department of Psychology

Date Written: January 22, 2015


This symposium essay constructs a theory of police racial violence that is based upon the social psychology of contemporary bias. Our examination of this violence through the lens of the mind sciences reveals that it is an inevitable and foreseeable consequence of current policing strategies and culture, even in the absence of institutional and individual racial animus. These practices, such as stops and frisks, create an environment that nurtures the unconscious racial biases and self-threats that can lead even consciously egalitarian officers to be more likely to use force disproportionately against Black suspects relative to suspects of other races. This Essay argues that if the state is to take seriously the project of protecting citizens from violence, then it must contend with the role of both unconscious racial biases and self-threats in producing racially disparate violence. Although one way to achieve this is to change existing legal doctrines to account for the pernicious effects of these psychological processes, our focus is examining ways to transform current policing strategies to better protect citizens from racial violence.

Suggested Citation

Richardson, L. Song and Goff, Phillip, Interrogating Racial Violence (January 22, 2015). Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law, Vol. 12, No. Fall, 2014, UC Irvine School of Law Research Paper No. 2015-13, Available at SSRN:

L. Song Richardson (Contact Author)

University of California, Irvine School of Law ( email )

401 E. Peltason
Irvine, CA 92612
United States

Phillip Goff

UCLA Department of Psychology ( email )

Los Angeles, CA 90095-1563
United States
310 206-3481 (Phone)

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