Race, Crime, and the Law
“An original, wise and courageous work that moves beyond sterile arguments and lifts the discussion of race and justice to a new and more hopeful level.”—Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.
In this groundbreaking, powerfully reasoned, lucid work that is certain to provoke controversy, Harvard law professor Randall Kennedy takes on a highly complex issue in a way that no one has before. Kennedy uncovers the long-standing failure of the justice system to protect blacks from criminals, probing allegations that blacks are victimized on a widespread basis by racially discriminatory prosecutions and punishments, but he also engages the debate over the wisdom and legality of using racial criteria in jury selection. He analyzes the responses of the legal system to accusations that appeals to racial prejudice have rendered trials unfair, and examines the idea that, under certain circumstances, members of one race are statistically more likely to be involved in crime than members of another.
There’s no question that nowadays, racial issues pose one of the biggest obstacles to the fair workings of our criminal justice system, but exactly how these issues come into play and what to do about them is a subtler matter. In this book, Kennedy, a Harvard Law School professor who is black, applies his precise command of the relevant legal language and legal background to explain and evaluate for the general reader various current ideas about how race is and should be involved in meting out criminal justice. His basic stance is that liberals and conservatives have more common ground on race and law than it seems at first, and that blacks have suffered more from being underprotected by law enforcement than from being mistreated as suspects or defendants, even though it is the latter allegation that seems to draw the most attention from those who view the courts through racial lenses.