critical race theory, empirical legal scholarship, social science
On a 2005 summer morning, Nicholas “Fat Nick” Minucci (White) beat Glenn Moore (Black) with a baseball bat and robbed him. During the assault, Minucci repeatedly screamed the N-word. At trial, Minucci’s attorney argued that he had not committed a hate crime. The essence of the defense’s argument was that Minucci’s use of the N-word while assaulting and robbing Moore was not indicative of any bias or prejudice. The defense went on to indicate that Minucci had Black friends, was immersed in Black culture, and employed the N-word as part of his everyday vocabulary. Two Black men—Gary Jenkins (hip hop music producer) and Randall Kennedy (Harvard Law Professor)—testified that the N-word is not necessarily a racial epithet. In this article, we systematically analyze this assessment of the N-word within hate crimes law. We employ a Critical Race Realist methodology toward this end. In doing so, we 1) systematically analyze Black and White usage of the N-word within popular culture (i.e., comedy, rap music, and spoken word) and 2) reconcile these findings with research on implicit (unconscious) race bias. In sum, we argue that whereas many Blacks may use the N-word, the usage of Whites immersed in Black culture is nil. Furthermore, we find that many Whites harbor implicit anti-Black biases and such biases predict racial hostility and the use of racial epithets. Consequently, within the realm of hate crimes law, courts should presume racial animus where a White person uses the N-word while committing a crime against a Black person. Furthermore, despite high rates of Black usage of the N-word and high rates of implicit anti-Black biases among Blacks, a law of intra-racial hate crimes among Blacks predicated upon their usage of the N-word would be fruitless. This is so given that the N-word means something differently when used intra-racially among Blacks than when directed at a Blacks from Whites.
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Scholar Commons Citation
Jones, Shayne E. and Parks, Gregory S., ""Nigger": A Critical Race Realist Analysis of the N-word within Hate Crimes Law" (2013). Criminology Faculty Publications. Paper 1.