In this powerfully reasoned, lucidly written work, Harvard Law Professor Randall Kennedy takes on the highly complex issues of race, crime, and the legal system, uncovering the long-standing failure of the justice system to protect blacks from criminals and revealing difficult truths about these factors in the United States.
Part history, part contemporary analysis, this long book contains worthy nuggets about current legal debates. This study by Harvard law professor Kennedy, known for his nuanced views on racial issues, includes thoughtful efforts at progressive but not radical solutions. Still, most of the book recaps our nation's deplorable history of racism in the courts. Kennedy observes that blacks commit more crimes than whites but argues compellingly that it is socially unhealthy for police to be instinctively suspicious of blacks; rather, we should spend more effort on other means of enforcement to counteract this. He opposes both peremptory challenges in jury selection and race-specific efforts to add blacks to jury pools; he prefers race-neutral efforts (using driver's licenses rather than voter rolls). Kennedy laments that capital punishment remains skewed against black killers of white victims and complains that local politicians remain unwilling to reform death penalty laws. Finally, he argues that there may be a legitimate reason for assessing harsher sentences on black sellers of crack than on white sellers of cocaine because crack is more accessible and thus more dangerous.