True Colors: Crime, Race and Colorblindness Revisited
46 Pages Posted: 7 Aug 2019
Date Written: 2018
The violent, racially motivated events of the Charlottesville rally unleashed demons that many Americans believed were long buried. Old Jim Crow-inspired racism came straight through the front door. Yet critics of colorblind policies were not surprised. For them, such an eruption of racial hatred manifested what they had repeatedly argued: colorblind policies neither alter racial predispositions nor affect the unequal treatment of minorities in the United States. In fact, colorblindness has given rise to a modern, latent type of racism. This Article empirically investigates this claim in an unexplored context — the media’s colorblind, crime-related coverage policies. Utilizing a novel dataset spanning ten years of crime coverage under the media’s colorblind policy contrasted with national and state-level crime statistics, this longitudinal study complicates the controversy around colorblindness. First, while explicit racial references in crime reports declined, they were replaced by implicit racial cues, primarily by the use of visuals. Second, racial schemas in the criminal context prevailed with unbalanced representations of black and white perpetrators compared to real crime statistics, both at the local and national level. Through these findings, this Article adds a new dimension to the scholarship on the indivisibility between race and crime in an era of colorblindness. It offers the incognizant liberal trap as a conceptual framework to engage with these findings, and an explanation for the failure of liberal news outlets to combat racially distorted narratives. This Article calls for an “affirmative action” in crime coverage to combat institutional inertia and to allow counter-stereotypical racial schemas to take hold. More broadly, this Article sheds light on the potential links between crime reports and persistent inequalities in the criminal justice system.
Keywords: Criminal Law, Race and Crime, Law and Media
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