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This Essay shines a spotlight on racial hoaxes, as both historical and contemporary phenomena. The discussion proceeds with three objectives in mind. First, to provide a context for racial hoaxes. This history shows that hoaxes are not benign offenses. Second, to identify the legal and social harms of racial hoaxes. Third, to discuss why sanctions for hoaxes should be reimagined to impose harms that deter future hoaxes. The fact that racial hoaxes continue to be deployed demonstrates that they carry legal and cultural weight. Racial hoaxes are used to activate and privilege some voices over others. The resulting inequity courses through the justice system and makes it possible for some people to give less credence to and have less concern for Black bodies.

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