Impossibility of a “Reverse Racism” Effect: A Rejoinder to James, James, and Vila

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Criminology & Public Policy

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Lois James, Stephen James, and Bryan Vila in their article “The Reverse Racism Effect: Are Cops More Hesitant to Shoot Black Than White Suspects?” from the May 2016 issue of Criminology & Public Policysuggested that a fear of adverse “legal and social consequences” leads police officers to be more cautious in shooting decisions when dealing with Blacks than with Whites, resulting in fewer errors and slower response times in a shooting simulation study. The authors dubbed this the “reverse racism effect.” Given the current political tension between communities of color and police, embodied in places like Ferguson, MO, these claims are disconcerting. This rejoinder contests the research on conceptual, theoretical, and methodological grounds. Although the article was originally published with policy essay responses from Lorie Fridell (2016) and William Terrill (2016) and an editorial introduction from Cynthia Lum (2016), none delivered the race-based critique that the conclusions of the article demand. We argue the crucial flaw of the article is a substantive lack of knowledge of race/racism by James et al.,1 leading them to make the unsubstantiated claim of “reverse racism.” We thus join other scholars who have criticized criminology's engagement with race/racism (Covington, 1995, 2010; Potter, 2013; Russell, 1992, 1998) and thank the editors of Criminology & Public Policy for this opportunity.


Copyright (2017) Wiley



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