Visualizing Justice is a project that seeks to make visible and accessible the social, political, and historical contexts in which racial injustice occurs. Through an innovative transdisciplinary approach that brings insights from law, anthropology, history and art, together with practices of film-making and visualization, the project explores ways of depicting layers of injustice that are often invisible to legal processes. Our objective is to create new possibilities for memorialization, pedagogy, advocacy, and litigation.
The Visualizing Justice Project announces the first video in a four-video series depicting systemic racism in the U.S. Entitled “Visualizing Justice,” it explores how U.S. law has perpetuated discriminatory violence against Black people. It draws upon archival material to illustrate the continuities of racial injustice throughout U.S. history, which persist to this day, that have stimulated the Black Lives Matter movement. By raising awareness of U.S. obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (the CERD), it ends by promoting alternate possibilities for addressing systemic racism in the U.S.
Racism against Black people has a profound impact on daily life in the U.S. Although law can serve as an instrument of justice, historically it has often been used in the U.S. to maintain racial oppression, providing the basis for plantation slavery, black codes, Jim Crow laws, mass incarceration, and other forms of systemic discrimination. While popular accounts present the history of race in the U.S. as a progression toward greater emancipation, with the civil rights era marking a fundamental break from the past, racism has successfully adapted and persisted despite resistance movements and consequent reforms. The resilience of racism in the U.S. can be explained by its ability to manifest itself across a continuum of laws, legal precedents, and cultural narratives employed over time to dehumanize, exploit, and brutalize Black people.
Dominant approaches to racial justice tend to focus on specific incidents of intentional discrimination by individual perpetrators. This approach leaves many other contributory elements outside the frame. Change cannot happen without a fundamental paradigm shift – not only in the way the law is mobilized, but also in how we envision justice. A key strategy for accomplishing this shift is to look beyond individual culpability and intentionality as central organizing principles for racial justice. This project explores racial injustice not only in relation to specific incidents of harm, but also by examining the longue durée of structural injustice that makes these incidents possible. Using data visualization, Visualizing Justice seeks to render visible the legal, political, and cultural policies and practices that connect the various aspects of systemic racism in violence, incarceration, housing, education, and health services. The goal is to usher in new possibilities for visualizing justice.