Wednesday, December 6, 2017
Mark W. Bennett and Victoria Plaut (U.S. District Court (Northern District of Iowa) and University of California, Berkeley - School of Law) have posted Looking Criminal and the Presumption of Dangerousness: Afrocentric Facial Features, Skin Tone, and Criminal Justice (51 U.C. Davis L.Rev. (2018, Forthcoming)) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
Social psychologists have established that faces of Black males trigger thoughts of violence, crime, and dangerousness and thoughts of crime trigger thoughts and images of Black males. This presumption of dangerousness increases with darker skin tones (colorism) and greater Afrocentric facial features and affects both men and women. We examine the history of the stereotype of Blacks and crime, violence, and dangerousness arising in the United States from the time of slavery. We focus on the historical development of this stereotype through a lens of history, literature, pseudo-science, emerging neuroscience, media distortion of crime reporting, and the development of the Negro-ape metaphor. We then look beyond the Black-White race dichotomy to explore the evolving social science literature examining the influence of skin tone and Afrocentric facial features on the length of criminal sentences. We further explore the social science supporting the presumption of dangerousness and conclude with recommendations to help ameliorate this problem that permeates the American criminal justice system.