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2014 - Pacific Sociological Association Annual Meeting Pages: unavailable || Words: 884 words || 
1. Markovitz, Jonathan. "Racist Stereotypes, Self-Defense, and the Thirteenth Amendment" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Pacific Sociological Association Annual Meeting, Marriott Downtown Waterfront, Portland, Oregon, Mar 27, 2014 Online <PDF>. 2019-10-20 <>
Publication Type: Research-in-progress presentation
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: Defendants claiming self-defense admit to having committed an act of violence, but seek sanction for having done so. They are, in effect, asking the legal system to mark their actions as socially acceptable, if not actually desirable. Self-defense inquiries often turn on the question of whether a defendant reasonably believed he or she was faced with a genuine threat. Because fears of violent crime are so deeply entwined with “commonsense” understandings of race and gender in American society, there is a danger that determinations of what counts as “reasonable” fear may be driven by reliance upon racist stereotypes. This danger is particularly pronounced in self-defense cases involving violence against members of racialized groups that have been frequently portrayed as violent criminals within popular culture and the mass media.
The legal system plays a centrally important role in shaping the ideological foundation of the United States. When legal decision-making is reliant upon racist stereotypes, the legal system lends those stereotypes its imprimatur, imbuing them with the force of law. When this happens in the self-defense context, legal determinations can legitimate forms of racial violence. This paper will argue for the necessity of actively guarding against such outcomes. Because courts have been resistant to developing methods of addressing racial inequalities by employing the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, this paper explores the possibility of relying upon less-developed but promising Thirteenth Amendment jurisprudence to challenge reliance on racist stereotypes in self-defense cases as an impermissible relic or “badge” of slavery.

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