American Sociological Association

“My Deputies Arrest Anyone Who Breaks the Law”: Understanding How Color-blind Discourse and Reasonable Suspicion Facilitate Racist Policing

In 2010, Arizona passed Senate Bill 1070. Although the Department of Justice has since deflated some of the racist tones contained within the bill, it set into motion several similar bills in other states. The author argues that this bill represents state-level color-blind racial ideology and facilitates white supremacy at the macro (state) and meso (police institutions) levels. Analyzing the state’s guidelines for determining “reasonable suspicion” implemented by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) in 2010 and 95 press releases from the desk of MCSO’s head sheriff, Joe Arpaio, from 2011, the author shows that these discourse have enabled racial profiling, racial discrimination, and racial attacks on the Latino/a community in the Phoenix metropolitan area. The use of this color-blind discourse masks state-sanctioned white supremacy perpetrated by the MCSO. The guidelines for reasonable suspicion shape the MCSO’s justificatory narratives (press releases) after racial profiling has occurred. In light of the Department of Justice’s findings that the sheriff’s office did indeed practice racial profiling of Latinos/as, this project peels back the discursive layers on how these racist practices are justified and how color-blind racism does more than create racialized discursive environments but fundamentally shapes, constructs, and enables the state’s police departments practices of white supremacy.


Daniel Justino Delgado





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