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The Matter of Lives Underneath Black Male Skin: Using Theory and Media to Explore the Case of “Justifiable Homicides” for Black Males

Inequality, Crime, and Health Among African American Males

ISBN: 978-1-78635-052-7, eISBN: 978-1-78635-051-0

Publication date: 14 December 2018


There is a peculiar problem in the US that is proving to challenge core values that undergird our laws, interpersonal interactions, and challenge the civil rights of many. American society believes in harsh sentences for committing crimes without a system for rehabilitation from crime and absent from resources from a community level to prevent crimes. As crime has declined since the 1990s, policing behavior has grown to a level that reflects a disregard for humanity resulting in police-involved shootings, also known as “justifiable homicides” or deaths by legal intervention. This peculiar problem reifies old notions of racial inferiority and racial profiling that stem from a long history of lynchings in America, and highlights a broken legal system that shows bias toward poor communities and communities not of the racial and ethnic majority. When laws support one racial or ethnic group and those with resources, other communities become invisible and subjected to state-sanctioned violence that allows some police agencies and police officers to engage in behaviors that do not reflect their training foster an overwhelming sense of fear in these communities. We have observed that when communities fear the police and the larger society disbelieves the negative interactions with police, residents have begun to capture police encounters with community members on social media. Despite the video footage that has been collected documenting abuse of power, some police have been granted impunity for their actions, which further fuels fear in these communities. What we propose are ways to frame and solve negative police encounters with communities through an understanding of: (1) racial biases; (2) racial and gender consciousness; (3) ways to provide more equitable policing practices; (4) the enforcement of legal remedies for those who abuse power; and (5) the prevention of acts of discrimination by holding individuals culpable who informally police Black males. We believe these strategies aid in addressing the historical legacy of these behaviors and moves multiple systems and disciplines toward integrated solutions to eliminate “justifiable homicides.”



Gilbert, K.L., Ray, R., Byrd, W.C., Richardson, J. and Johnson, O. (2018), "The Matter of Lives Underneath Black Male Skin: Using Theory and Media to Explore the Case of “Justifiable Homicides” for Black Males", Inequality, Crime, and Health Among African American Males (Research in Race and Ethnic Relations, Vol. 20), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 171-183.



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