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Black and BlueHow African Americans Judge the U.S. Legal System$
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James L. Gibson and Michael Nelson

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190865214

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190865214.001.0001

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The Legal System and Its African American Constituents

The Legal System and Its African American Constituents

(p.1) 1 The Legal System and Its African American Constituents
Black and Blue

James L. Gibson

Michael J. Nelson

Oxford University Press

Despite popular reports that the legal system is in a state of crisis with respect to its African American constituents, research on black public opinion in general is limited owing to the difficulty and expense of assembling representative samples of minorities. We suspect that the story of lagging legal legitimacy among African Americans is in fact quite a bit more nuanced than is often portrayed. In particular, black public opinion is unlikely to be uniform and homogeneous; black people most likely vary in their attitudes toward law and legal institutions. Especially significant is variability in the experiences—personal and vicarious—black people have had with legal authorities (e.g., “stop-and-frisk”), and the nature of individuals’ attachment to blacks as a group (e.g., “linked fate”). We posit that both experiences and in-group identities are commanding because they influence the ways in which black people process information, and in particular, the ways in which blacks react to the symbols of legal authority (e.g., judges’ robes).

Keywords:   legitimacy, diffuse support, Positivity Theory, U.S. Supreme Court, symbols, linked fate, Social Identity Theory, group attachment, vicarious experience, information processing

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