Racialization as a Way of Seeing: The Limits of Counter-Surveillance and Police Reform Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • This paper considers the role of video footage in recent high-profile cases of anti-black police brutality in the United States. I illuminate the limits of the counter-surveillance impetus to film the police by contextualizing this strain of social media utopianism within the larger history of what I call “racialization as a way of seeing.” Racialization as a way of seeing is a historical formation that brings together the history of policing, the development of visual epistemologies, and the history of the naturalization of the criminality of blackness. I then track how the optimism of the counter-surveillance discourse has been recuperated by the state into consent for police worn cameras—reforms which threaten to strengthen a system built on structural racism, rather than ameliorate its injustices. I conclude by suggesting an emergent model for how video evidence may be paradoxically working to relegitimize the police and the state in the newest era of “21st century policing.”

publication date

  • 2017