This article proposes "de-coding" as a method for unveiling the racist purpose behind the enactment of race-neutral legislation. Through the use of "code words," defined as “phrases and symbols which refer indirectly to racial themes, but do not directly challenge popular democratic or egalitarian ideals,” legislators can appeal to racist sentiments without appearing racist. More importantly, they can do so without leaving evidence that can be traced back as an intent to discriminate. This article proposes to use "de-coding" as a method to unmask the racist purpose behind the enactment of the 100:1 crack versus powder cocaine ratio for mandatory federal prison sentences. However, while this article, like many other law review articles on the subject, argues that the crack cocaine sentencing scheme is unconstitutional, the real purpose of analyzing the constitutionality of the crack statute is to show how "de-coding" can be an effective means of unmasking the racist meaning behind primarily race-neutral comments. When the interpretation of "de-coded," race-neutral comments falls in line with an un-coded historical pattern of discrimination, it makes sense to infer that there was an intent to discriminate.
Cracking the Code: "De-Coding" Colorblind Slurs During the Congressional Crack Cocaine Debates,
Mich. J. Race & L.
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