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Russell-Brown examines media portrayal of race

by Scott Emerson
Senior Writer

The Color of CrimeWhy do black and white Americans perceive police actions so differently? Is white fear of black crime justified? Do African-Americans really protect their own? Should they?

These are just a few of the questions posed and examined by author and University of Florida Levin College of Law Professor Katheryn Russell-Brown in her recently released book, The Color of Crime (New York University Press). In her book, Russell-Brown, director of the UF College of Law Center for the Study of Race and Race Relations (CSRRR), explores with readers a wide range of perplexing racial crucibles regarding race and the media.

This second edition of The Color of Crime has been updated with new chapters such as "Media Messages," "The Skin Game," "History's Strange Fruit," "Discrimination or Disparity," and, "Are We Still Talking About O.J.? The book also includes two new chapters. One examines how the deviance associated with black skin "bleeds" into other areas, including the images associated with certain names and accents and how it directly ties to racial disproportionality in the criminal justice system. The other new chapter makes the case for race and crime literacy.

"The primary and unapologetic focus for this text is on the relationship between African-Americans and the U.S. criminal justice system," said Russell-Brown.

Russell-Brown's book also examines racially-fueled hoaxes and cases that have made headlines in the last 10 years, including the Jena Six, the Duke Lacrosse team and the victimization of minority residents of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

"Though both blacks and whites commit hoaxes, their reasons vary greatly," said Russell-Brown. "Most white hoaxers portray themselves as victims of random acts of violence; black hoaxers often frame their incidents as hate crimes."

The Color of Crime draws on Russell-Brown's teaching, criminology and writing experience to explore the subtle ways that unacceptable behavior is systematically linked to people of color.

"Beyond addressing my own queries, this book's modest objective is to offer students and interested others a richer and fuller backdrop with which to understand and critique the workings of today's criminal justice system," said Russell-Brown. "I have written the second edition to continue my academic expedition."

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