In this article, I challenge Alschuler's belief that voir dire into racial bias is of minimal benefit. I argue that calling attention to the possibility of racial bias in either the actions of the individuals involved in the case or the jurors themselves can raise the salience of race and encourage jurors to view the evidence in a less biased way than if they were not paying attention to the possibility of racial bias. While I agree with Alschuler that a simple, close-ended question like "Are you going to be biased against the defendant because of his race?" is unlikely to be helpful, I believe a series of open-ended questions, asking jurors to reflect upon how racial bias, both explicit and implicit, might affect their ability to impartially consider the evidence, can be beneficial.
My article proceeds in three parts. In Part I, I review the Supreme Court's jurisprudence on voir dire into racial bias. In Part II, I examine recent social science research that may help answer the question whether calling attention to race during voir dire helps or hurts. On the one hand is a wealth of empirical research conducted over the last decade that strongly suggests calling attention to race motivates jurors to treat Black and White defendants equally. These studies indicate that when race is not highlighted, jurors tend to be more punitive and less empathetic toward Black defendants than White defendants. On the other hand are a few recent studies suggesting that when individuals are made aware of extreme racial differences in the prison population, i.e. when they are given information that suggests there are many more Blacks and Latinos than Whites in prison, Whites are more likely to support punitive criminal justice policies. I conclude in Part III that as a matter of trial strategy, it is best for an attorney concerned about racial bias to confront the issue of race head on. I argue that it is best to do so early and often, rather than waiting until just before the jurydeliberates, as it may be too late by then to change jurors' minds.