The Scars of Being Policed While Black
From unjustified stops of Black teenagers to a device to torment people in custody, racist police brutality runs deep.
By Laurence Ralph
Dr. Ralph is an anthropologist.
I made the film above to explain exactly what it means to be policed in America today. It moves from my own experiences with racial profiling as a teenager to the horrific history of police torture in Chicago.
Based on more than a decade of research, this Op-Doc serves as an instant primer on the roots of police violence. Right now, somewhere in the United States, similar episodes of police violence are still playing out.
This film is meant for everyone who has felt alone and violated after being subjected to police violence. It’s also for anyone who has wept over the memory of a victim or taken to the streets in protest.
These stories are personal. I was born in Brooklyn to immigrant parents and spent my formative years in Baltimore and Atlanta. In those cities, I got a firsthand introduction to the politics of race and learned that I should be afraid of the police.
The insights and fear remain with me, decades later, as a professor of anthropology at Princeton. All of my research and writing centers on drawing attention to the young Black lives our society neglects and leaves behind.
This film aims to interrupt how police violence is driven by a false dichotomy between “good” versus “bad” people. Too often, the police inflict violence on the latter — those preemptively deemed guilty and thus unworthy of love, care or empathy. I hope this film can be part of a larger movement that helps to forge a broad alliance to unite all people, regardless of color or creed, in the service of human dignity.
Laurence Ralph is a professor of anthropology at Princeton.
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