Can capital punishment survive If Black Lives Matter?

Michael Cholbi, Alex Madva

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract / Description of output

Drawing upon empirical studies of racial discrimination dating back to the 1940’s, the Movement for Black Lives platform calls for the abolition of capital punishment. Our purpose here is to defend the Movement’s call for death penalty abolition in terms congruent with its claim that the death penalty in the U.S. is a “racist practice” that “devalues Black lives.” We first sketch the jurisprudential history of race and capital punishment in the U.S., wherein courts have occasionally expressed worries about racial injustice but have usually taken such evidence to warrant reform but not outright abolition. We argue that the racial discrimination at issue flows in significant part from implicit biases concerning race, criminality, and violence, which do not fit comfortably within the picture of racial bias advanced by the courts. The case for abolition, we contend, rests on Black Americans as a class (not merely those who interact with the criminal justice system as capital defendants or as murder victims) being subject to such bias and thereby not being accorded equal status under the law.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Movement for Black Lives
Subtitle of host publicationPhilosophical Perspectives
EditorsBrandon Hogan, Michael Cholbi, Alex Madva, Benjamin S. Yost
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780197507810
ISBN (Print)9780197507773, 9780197507780
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • capital punishment
  • death penalty
  • Black Lives Matter
  • racial discrimination
  • implicit bias
  • stereotypes
  • prejudice
  • equal status
  • distributive justice
  • comparative justice


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