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Negrophobia and Reasonable Racism

The Hidden Costs of Being Black in America

Jody Armour

Publication Year: 1997

Tackling the ugly secret of unconscious racism in American society, this book provides specific solutions to counter this entrenched phenomenon.

Published by: NYU Press


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

I presented portions of this book at various workshops, colloquia, and faculty seminars in Colorado, Indiana, Pittsburgh, and at the University of Southern California. I gained much from these workshops, seminars, and colloquia, and thank all those who participated. Parts of the book were also presented at the American Association on Law Schools Conference on Torts and ...

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Introduction: “Rational” Discrimination and the Black Tax

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pp. 1-18

It is a rainy night in a combined residential and commercial neighborhood in a predominantly White upper-middle-class section of a major U.S. city. It is 10:30 P.M. It is raining hard. Although most of the fashionable shops and boutiques in the neighborhood have closed, the neighborhood bank contains an automatic teller. The machine is located in a lobby between two ...

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Chapter One: The “Reasonable Racist”: A Slippery Oxymoron

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pp. 19-21

The “Reasonable Racist” asserts that, even if his belief that Blacks are “prone to violence” stems primarily from racism— that is, from a belief in the genetic predisposition of Blacks toward greater violence, from uncritical acceptance of the Black cultural stereotype, or from personal racial animus—he should be excused for considering the victim’s race before using force ...

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How We Know What We Know: The Typical, the Reasonable, and the Accurate

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pp. 22-26

... of our claims to knowledge about the world rest on typical beliefs; we assume that the propositions about the world that “everyone knows” (propositions often equated with “common sense”) are true unless we have reason to doubt them. Of course, common sense may reflect and perpetuate oppressive myths and expedient misconceptions. Many women died ...

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Why We Blame Whom We Blame: The Typical, the Reasonable, and the Damnable

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pp. 27-34

Alternatively, typical beliefs may be considered reasonable on the supposition that they are not blameworthy, however inaccurate or even irrational they may be.12 This is the claim of reasonableness invoked by both the Reasonable Racist and, as we will discuss later, the Involuntary Negrophobe. According to ...

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Chapter Two: The “Intelligent Bayesian”: Reckoning with Rational Discrimination

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pp. 35-45

White America craves absolution. At least according to U.S. News & World Report it does. By admitting he sometimes fears young Black men, the Reverend Jackson “seemed to be offering sympathetic Whites something for which they hungered: absolution,” declared U.S. News.1 For other journalists, Jackson’s comments were as much about vindication as absolution—in their view, his ...

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Why Rational Discrimination Is Not Reasonable

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pp. 46-57

The most readily apparent objection to the reasonableness claim of the Bayesian challenges the statistical method he employs to assess the victim’s dangerousness. Neither private nor judicial judgments about a particular member of a class, the argument goes, should rest on evidence about the class to which he or she belongs. Despite the attractiveness of this principle, and ...

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Race and the Subversion of Rationality

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pp. 58-60

... benefits of these incremental gains in rationality are so decisively outweighed by the social and moral costs of race-based predictions that relying on race is unreasonable. Now we examine how considering race in self-defense cases can undermine rationality itself. However pure a defender’s conscious intentions, considering the race of an “ambiguous” Black person ...

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Chapter Three: The “Involuntary Negrophobe”

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pp. 61-63

This frank and chilling description by Micaela di Leonardo, a former rape crisis counselor, of her reaction to being raped by a Black male suggests the profoundly personal level on which the link between race and violence may be forged. In contrast to both the “Reasonable Racist” (whose fear of Blacks stems from ...

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The Involuntary Negrophobe and Dueling Conceptions of Law

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pp. 64-67

Judge Tomlinson’s statement illustrates one side of the ongoing debate between instrumentalist and noninstrumentalist conceptions of law. The noninstrumentalist approach focuses exclusively on the personal culpability of the individual defendant, without regard for any social implications beyond the boundaries of the immediate case. Noninstrumentalists argue ...

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Chapter Four: Of Mice and Men: Equal Protection and Unconscious Bias

The United States Constitution. For some, when all other pleas for racial fairness fall on deaf or indifferent ears, hope can still find something to reach for in the United States Constitution, once thought to be the surest handhold on the precipitous cliff of American racial justice. Faith in the ability of the Constitution to promote racial justice has been flagging in recent years, however. ...

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Private Bias and Equal Protection

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pp. 69-76

Courts have long invoked the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which prohibits the states from denying any person the equal protection of the laws,1 to invalidate racially discriminatory laws, and to prohibit racially discriminatory state action.2 In the most straightforward case, when a state ...

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Restructuring the Maze to Serve Justice

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pp. 77-80

... especially those of the Negrophobe, undoubtedly strike noninstrumentalists as irrelevant in view of their conviction that punishing individuals for psychological conditions beyond their control—or knowledge—is unjust. This is the “just deserts” school of criminal justice. From this perspective, punishment is ...

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Chapter Five: Blame and Punishment: Narrative, Perspective, Scapegoats, and Demons

Storytelling—narrative—shapes our responses to the world. It excites and channels our passions and sympathies, inviting us to become certain kinds of people (compassionate and understanding or self-righteous and vindictive, for example) to the extent that we give ourselves over to its point of view. Narrative, moreover, ...

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Framing the Narrative Broadly in Women’s Self-Defense Work

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pp. 83

Advocates for battered women challenge the restrictions on narrative inscribed in traditional criminal law in two crucial respects. First, advocates press traditional criminal law to depart from its dominant tendency to focus narrowly on the criminal incident.6 Specifically, women’s self-defense work urges traditional criminal law to broaden its time frame to take account of ...

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Narrative, Consent, and Blame

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pp. 84-88

Traditional legal scholars and conservative courts oppose defendants’ efforts to broaden and individualize their narratives because they fear the potential impact of such considerations on our ability to treat the defendant’s “choice” to violate the law as truly “free.” For traditional scholars must posit “free choice” to ...

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The Fundamental Fault Line: Determinism versus Antideterminism

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pp. 89-93

Thus, the battle over context and perspective really boils down to one over how we should think about choice. And the battle over alternative conceptions of choice, in turn, is really a clash of antideterminist versus determinist explanations of human behavior. By “antideterminism” I mean the principle that people freely choose their actions and thus are completely responsible ...

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“Disadvantaged Social Background”

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pp. 94-95

Why does the excuse of duress cause mainstream thinkers to grasp at such threadbare distinctions to keep it rigidly restricted? The reason—openly confessed by mainstream academics24—is because determinist doctrines like duress severely threaten the coherence and cogency of the intentionalist assumptions of ordinary criminal law discourse. Once we admit ...

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Opponents Grasp at Straws

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pp. 96-100

... demands for conviction and tougher punishment under the misleading label of “victims’ rights.” Because he offers as sophisticated an account as can be found of why the law should not recognize a disadvantaged social background excuse, we shall focus on his arguments as representative of the antideterminist, just-deserts school of blame and punishment.30 He ...

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Ideological Agendas

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pp. 101-114

In the end, one must wonder what it is about deterministic perspectives that compels otherwise able writers like Fletcher to lapse into empty tautologies and proudly complacent assertions in seeking to refute them. This zealous advocacy of antideterminist perspectives along with the inconsistent but vociferous ...

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Chapter Six: Repealing the Black Tax: Breaking the Discrimination Habit

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pp. 115-117

The ideal of a color-blind society has long been promoted as a panacea for the blight of both institutional and private racism. For the sake of neutrality and objectivity, we are told, we must do everything in our power to ignore—or better still, to avoid even noticing—each other’s race. Consciously thinking about racial identity in decision making is perceived as likely to lead to ...

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Hypocritical Racists and Aversive Racists

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pp. 118-129

... by these stereotypes. Does this mean that we are all racists? Leading thinkers in law, psychology, and social science answer this question with an emphatic “yes.” They view prejudice as an inevitable outgrowth of our stereotype-ridden cultural belief system.7 ...

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Proving Ubiquitous Unconscious Bias

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pp. 130-138

It is widely believed that our judgments and memories of others turn on whatever information about them has been made available to us. But if information alone were sufficient to determine our social judgments, then reasonable people who are exposed to the same information about someone should form the same judgments. Yet, people often form different judgments ...

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Combating Unconscious Discrimination in the Courtroom

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pp. 139-153

Perhaps the most important strength of the dissociation model of automatic and controlled processes outlined here is that it suggests a strategy for resisting unconscious discrimination. Thus far, the model has focused on how people who are firmly committed to their low-prejudiced beliefs77 remain prone to automatic activation of stereotypes. For such individuals to ...

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pp. 154-160

Once a thief is caught, a whole string of crimes if often solved. A single psychological phenomenon can explain a host of persistent social problems. A few entrenched moral and conceptual errors can spawn a vast array of social injustices. Identifying such a phenomenon and exposing such errors has been a major objective of this book. ...


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pp. 161-200


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pp. 201-204

E-ISBN-13: 9780814707821
E-ISBN-10: 0814707823
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814706404
Print-ISBN-10: 0814706401

Page Count: 216
Publication Year: 1997

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Discrimination in criminal justice administration -- United States.
  • Racism -- United States.
  • United States -- Race relations.
  • African Americans -- Civil rights.
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