Ending the Policing of Black Bodies in Public Spaces Requires Not Just a Change of Policy but a Change of Heart

Black Policing, black culture

Connie M. Razza | The Root

Chikesia Clemons at the Waffle House in Saraland, Ala. Myneca Ojo, Sandra Thompson, Sandra Harrison and a friend at Grandview Golf Club in York, Pa. Tshyrad Oates and a friend at LA Fitness in Secaucus, N.J. Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson at a Starbucks in Philadelphia. Brandon Ward at a Los Angeles-area Starbucks.

Ezell A. Blair, Franklin E. McCain, Joseph A. McNeil and David L. Richmond at the Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C. Rosa Parks on the bus in Montgomery, Ala. Homer Plessy on the East Louisiana Railroad in New Orleans.

Ever since the United States granted citizenship to black people, African Americans have been pushing the nation to acknowledge that promise. Yet discrimination still systematically limits African Americans’ right to live, move, gather and participate fully in our democracy and our economy. When outrageous public incidents happen, we can recall some of the names and details, but most often, these events slip wordlessly into the passage of time.

Despite the long legacy of discrimination in public accommodations—a central battleground of the civil rights movement—looking at each of these incidents individually allows us to believe the fiction that these are aberrations. However, the indignities thrust on Rashon Nelson or Tshyrad Oates or Myneca Ojo or Chikesia Clemons send a broader message about who belongs, who matters, who deserves respect—and who does not.

In our nation’s operating system, aggressively controlling black people in public spaces is a feature, not a bug.

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