Toward an Understanding of Structural Racism: Implications for Criminal Justice


Julian M. Rucker and Jennifer A. Richeson

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Rucker, J.M & Richeson, J.A. (2021). Toward an Understanding of Structural Racism: Implications for Criminal Justice. Science, 374(6565): 286-290. DOI: 10.1126/science.abj7779.
Racial inequality is a foundational feature of the criminal justice system in the United States. Here we offer a psychological account for how Americans have come to tolerate a system that is so at odds with their professed egalitarian values. We argue that beliefs about the nature of racism—as being solely due to prejudiced individuals rather than structural factors that disadvantage marginalized racial groups—work to uphold racial stratification in the criminal justice system. Although acknowledging structural racism facilitates the perception of and willingness to reduce racial inequality in criminal justice outcomes, many Americans appear willfully ignorant of structural racism in society. We reflect on the role of psychological science in shaping popular understandings of racism and discuss how to contribute more meaningfully to its reduction.
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