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Slave Patrols to #LivingWhileBlack: The Policing of Black Lives

For the past few months, the #LivingWhileBlack has been trending due to the plethora of similar cases of white people calling the police on black people for, well, living. From the Starbucks incident where two black men were arrested while waiting on their coffee, the police call made on a 8-year-old black girl selling water, calling the police on a black women for couponing, and many more 2018 has further proved that criminalization is part of being black in the U.S. And while due to the vital part social media plays in news today, it may seem like the policing of black people is a arising phenomenon of our time — that is not the case.

Looking back at colonial America during the 1700s, the slave population in the colonies was rising higher than the white population and with it the fear in whites of slaves revolting, escaping, etc. This fear resulted in a creation of “slave patrols,” groups of white men who completed tasks ranging from violently returning slaves back to their masters, to breaking up slave meetings, to monitoring slaves. Slave Patrol was a physical form of what it means to police black lives — patrollers did this through catching runaway slaves, abusing them and finally returning them back to their masters. In addition to physical policing, these patrollers existence was deliberately created to incite fear among the slave population to stop revolts and escapes before they happened. Taking a closer look, we can see the basic reason for slave patrols, to police and control black lives, and with that in mind lets analyze #LivingWhileBlack.

Let’s start with the chilling fact that the origins of modern-day police departments in the U.S. evolved from the previously mentioned slave patrols. If we take a closer look at the two systems, slave patrols and today’s police, there are too many similarities between them for it to not be deliberate. I would like to mention that claiming these similarities are deliberate is not far-fetched because black lives have systematically been policed in the U.S. well after slavery — with black codes, the KKK, then Jim Crow and so on. With the resemblance these institution carry comes #LivingWhileBlack. Whether it is while getting a drink, doing your job or shopping, black people are not able to live their lives without the fear of policing. While slavery doesn’t exists in the sense it did back in the 1700s, the way black people were not allowed to live their lives back in without patrolling, black people are not able to live their lives today.

In addition to the institutions themselves, there is a conversation to be had in the comfortableness of white America to call police on a 8-year-old black girl selling water. The call itself stems from the anti-blackness in our society and the way people still see black people as something else; this prompts the need for control over black people. As for contacting the police, that is not too surprising because of the racist history of police departments. Why wouldn’t a white women call the institution that, as mentioned before, was created to protect her property and needs?

Photo: Grit Post

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