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Psychology and law, Ethnicity and dispute resolution, Cutural relativism, Minorities and crime, Race and homicide, Race and legal decision making


Civil Rights and Discrimination | Law and Society


The development of law is inextricably linked to matters of race and ethnicity. The stories of minority citizens--the texture of their lives, the prejudices they have endured, and their struggles for fair treatment--have been documented in the pages of legal opinions, as judges over the years have wrestled with fundamental questions of racial bias and inequality. Studying race, ethnicity, and the law is challenging for many reasons, not the least of which is the prime difficulty of defining what we mean by race. Even the choice of words used to identify minority individuals has social and political ramifications. How law functions to oppress and liberate minorities has been a longstanding topic in the field of sociolegal studies. Issues of race, ethnicity, and law have taken on new urgency in recent years, as affirmative action and reverse discrimination claims as well as reapportionment battles and racial hate speech cases have come before the courts.

This special issue of Law and Human Behavior focuses on social science research on race, ethnicity, and the law. Articles in the special issue consider the influence of race and ethnicity on substantive law, legal processes, and crime and deviance, and illustrate the tensions and contradictions that pervade the law's treatment of racial and ethnic minorities. We conclude that taking race and ethnicity into account may force scholars to reconceptualize theories about law's impact and that a greater number of racial and ethnic minority scholars would enrich the field of sociolegal studies.

Publication Citation

Published in: Law and Human Behavior, vol. 18, no. 3 (June 1994).