By Justin D. Levinson, a law professor and Director of the Culture and Jury Project at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and Robert J. Smith, a visiting assistant professor of law at DePaul University
A young girl walks to school, eager for the opportunity to engage and learn, despite the so-called “achievement gap.” Later that morning, her mother reports to the courthouse, jury summons in hand, excited to participate in a civic responsibility. On the same day, her grandfather goes to the local Emergency Room, afraid that his chest pains might mean that has suffered a heart attack. Nearby, a non-profit serving underprivileged youth prepares to make its “pitch” to a local corporation, seeking a charitable donation that will allow it to survive and fulfill its mission. Each of these storylines, which by themselves illustrate separate challenges within the health, educational, and economic systems, share a troubling commonality: each depicts an area of social life that is characterized by racially disparate outcomes.
Indeed, despite cultural progress in reducing overt acts of racism, stark racial disparities continue to define American life. Our new book, Implicit Racial Bias Across the Law, is for anyone who wonders, 58 years after the U.S. Supreme Court issued its landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education, why race still matters and is interested in what emerging social science can contribute to the discussion. The book explores how scientific evidence on the human mind might help to explain why racial equality is so elusive. This new evidence reveals how human mental machinery can be skewed by lurking stereotypes, often bending to accommodate hidden biases reinforced by years of social learning. Through the lens of these powerful and pervasive implicit racial attitudes and stereotypes, Implicit Racial Bias Across the Law examines both the continued subordination of historically disadvantaged groups and the legal system's complicity in the subordination.