Race and the Law in the Genomic Age: A Problem for Equal Treatment Under the Law

Robin Bradley Kar, John Lindo

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Despite the ‘Age of Genomics’, many scholars who study race and the law resist biological insights into human psychology and behaviour. Contemporary developments make this resistance increasingly untenable. This chapter synthesizes recent findings in genomics and evolutionary psychology, which suggest cause for concern over how racial concepts function in the law. Firstly, racial perceptions engage a ‘folk-biological’ module of psychology, which generates inferences poorly adapted to genomic facts about human populations. Racial perceptions are, therefore, prone to function in ways more prejudicial than probative of many issues relevant to criminal and civil liability. Secondly, many folk biological inferences function automatically, unconsciously, and without animus or discriminatory intent. Hence, current equal protection doctrine, which requires a finding of discriminatory intent and is a central mechanism for guaranteeing people equal treatment under the law, is poorly suited to that task. These facts support but complicate several claims made by Critical Race Theorists.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Law, Regulation and Technology
EditorsRoger Brownsword, Eloise Scotford, Karen Yeung
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Print)9780199680832
StatePublished - 2017

Publication series

NameOxford Handbooks


  • race
  • genetics
  • genomics
  • wade
  • racism
  • folk biology
  • evolutionary psychology
  • equal protection
  • affirmative action
  • evolution
  • unconscious racism
  • implicit bias
  • inequality
  • in-group
  • out-group
  • biology
  • population genetics
  • y-haplogroup


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