Chapter 9: A Legal Realist approach to black-on-black policing
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The problem of police violence against African Americans is a salient feature of nationwide discussions about race. Drawing on empirical, historical, and theoretical literatures, we examine how, if at all, black police officers’ race might shape how they police other African Americans. Fundamental to our analysis of black police officers is a Du Boisian conceptualization of race and professional identity - namely, that African American police officers have to negotiate and reconcile two historically distinct strivings - the strivings to be “blue” and the strivings to be “black” - in one “dark body.” As we explain, how they perform that negotiation and reconciliation is not simply a matter of individual choice, individual agency, and individual commitment. Structural factors are at play as well. We show that the very factors that explain why white police officers might systematically overpolice and deploy violence against African Americans arguably implicate black police officers as well. Moreover, the pressures black police officers likely experience to fit into their departments potentially compound the problem. We conclude that the pursuit of diversity in the context of policing will not, without more, fundamentally change how African Americans experience the police.

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