Content warning: this Article discusses police brutality.

The relationship between race, law, and policing is one that has been analyzed by many scholars throughout U.S. history. The vast majority of research about police has highlighted policing in relation to groups they police, focusing on areas such as policing practices, policies, or involvement in the racialization of minority groups. This scholarship has far outpaced research on actions taken by law enforcement on behalf of law enforcement— specifically, how law enforcement engages in racialization out of self-interest. A better understanding of the ways in which law enforcement engages in racialization that is not just limited to other groups would provide a new way for understanding race, law, and policing. In addition, such an understanding would provide the appropriate context for policies and laws birthed out of the police racialization process.

In this Article, I explore the racialization process of police by police (“blue racing”) in the context of hate crime legislation. I argue that the passage of hate crime legislation that included law enforcement, which I will refer to as “blue lives matter bills,” was not the result of increased violence or threats to officer safety, despite the rationale offered by the bills’ proponents. Instead, utilizing both Zakiya Luna’s “racial framing” and Michael Omi and Howard Winant’s “racial project” concepts, I argue that including law enforcement as a protected category within hate crime statutes was part of a racial project, engaged in by the countermovement blue lives matter, to prevent and criminalize protests that called attention to law enforcement abuse. Essential to this racial project was the blue racing of police. In this way, blue lives matter bill proponents used racial framing to legitimize their claims of alleged oppression. This legitimization gave both the blue lives matter bill proponents and legislatures the cover to punish and reprimand protestors of law enforcement brutality.