Legal Cynicism and Race: Do Black Lives Really Matter?

Legal cynicism is a sociocultural or sociopolitical lens through which members of a community observe, perceive, and interpret their engagement with the legal system or, in this case, enforcement agents of the law. Regrettably, it appears that, too frequently, instead of stabilizing the issue, law enforcement adversely escalates the matter. Legal cynicism erodes the legitimacy […]

The Cost of Poverty: A Price We All Must Pay

Current research regarding the impact of economic distress continues to establish the relationship between chronic poverty and well-being, and elucidates the biological, physiological, and sociological, mechanisms behind the toxic association. The child pays the greatest price of the poor. Economic distress produces lifelong effects of childhood adversity and toxic stress. Given that racial and ethnic […]

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Being McKinney: Legal Cynicism and Race

Frank A. Franklin II, Ph.D., J.D.

The McKinney, Texas, swimming pool incident exemplifies one of the many sources of legal cynicism among minority and poor communities in America. Legal cynicism is a sociocultural or sociopolitical lens through which members of a community observe, perceive, and interpret their engagement with the legal system or, in this case, enforcement agents of the law. In other words, a lens to contemplate Officer Eric Casebolt’s pulling of a 14-year-old bikini-clad girl onto the ground and kneeling on her back to restrain her. Regrettably, it appears that, too frequently, instead of stabilizing the issue, law enforcement adversely escalates the matter. Legal cynicism erodes the legitimacy of the enforcement apparatuses of the law by appearing unavailable or incapable of addressing community grievances.

The poor and persons of color disproportionately experience aggressive policing. A consequence of aggressive policing is the disparate rates of arrest and incarceration. In comparison to one out every hundred American adults behind bars, the U.S. imprisons one out every nine African American men between the ages of 20 and 34 and one our every 36 Hispanic adults. Incarceration rates have been the most dramatic among the under-educated African American male below the age of 34. Although it is unreasonable to categorically suggest that law enforcement as a whole engages in excessive policing; however, a reasonable argument can be made that many of the policing practices of the “post racial” present feel strangely reminiscent of the policing practices of the notorious past.

If a victim of excessive policing attempts to transform the event into a legal claim, his efforts can be frustrated by the legal standards of the laws that are available. Under the Law Enforcement Misconduct Statute, police departments can be held accountable when there is evidence showing a pattern or practice of conduct that deprives persons of rights, privileges, or immunities secured under the Constitution of the United States. Establishing an allegation of a pattern or practice of misconduct is not necessarily straightforward and relies on a multitude of corroborative sources, and there is no right of private action under this law. On the other hand, laws that have a private right of action usually require an individual to exhaust all administrative remedies prior to filing a claim. An additional burden of private action claims can be the requirement of establishing discriminatory intent.

Unequivocally, race is at the center of the issue regarding aggressive policing and the use of excessive force, and it seems untenable to suggest otherwise. Regardless of intent, minority communities differentially bear the burden of being over-policed, and to give the idea of race neutrality the benefit of the doubt is disingenuous. Race neutrality is an omission of an adequate response and tantamount to a conspiracy of indifference. Arguably, collective apathy is no more charitable than collective animus. A meaningful engagement to redress aggressive policing or excessive force should not be constrained by the boundaries of race; yet, a meaningful resolution cannot be reached in its absence.

Frank Franklin II, PhD, JD

Politics of the Body and Criminalizing Pregnancy

Illicit drug use among pregnant women is an important public health issue in the U.S. Prenatal drug use is associated with adverse health consequences for the mother and the developing fetus. Compared to other illicit substances, cocaine is consistently associated with birth outcomes such as fetal growth. National estimates suggest that approximately 4% of pregnant […]