[Driving While Black]:
Corollary Phenomena and
Katheryn K. Russell
In the public arena, issues of race continue to command center stage.1 The ongoing debates and discussions have raised new questions, while not necessarily answering the old ones. Specifically, the recent dialogues have focused on the role that Blackness plays in today's society. Some assign Blackness a primary role, others believe it is secondary. Still others dismiss it as tertiary. These varied positions, ranging from [race has nothing to do with this] to [race has everything to do with this,] have in some ways canceled out any meaningful discussion of racial issues. Each of the racial camps has been allowed to claim victory without giving any ground. The result: racial homeostasis.
This failure of movement is particularly troubling given that in the legal arena, Blackness itself faces increasing criminal penalty—both actual and perceived. One of the clearest examples is the phenomenon of [Driving While Black] ([DWB]). This expression has been used to describe a wide range of race-based suspicion of Black and Brown motorists.2
Once an offense known and discussed almost exclusively among African Americans, DWB has risen from relative obscurity. Several factors are
Originally appeared on pages 717–731 in volume 40 (3) of the Boston College Law Review in
1999. Reprinted by permission.
The author thanks Professors Bernadette W. Hartfield and Ellen Podgor for the invitation to
participate in this symposium.