When George Floyd was murdered by the Minneapolis police on May 25, 2020, mass protests against police violence and institutional racism exploded across the country and reverberated around the globe, in cities large and small. This year’s summer reading list spotlights articles published in Metropolitics that deal with police violence and anti-Black racism. They analyze the essential role race plays in instances of police violence and argue for an intersectional approach to critical criminology. They identify the conditions that provoke urban unrest and propose solutions, such as disarming the police. Together, they reveal systemic injustices and highlight the urban contours of both racism and protest.
To continue your summer reading, and to provide inspiration to those crafting syllabi, we encourage you to explore our archives, which reflect a commitment to accessible scholarly research that engages with timely issues related to communities, borders, and urban politics.
Debates | Hardening Racial Lines in Public Space. A Comment on the McKinney Pool Episode
On Friday, June 5, 2105, Black teenagers in McKinney, Texas, were violently subdued by a police officer following a conflict that broke out at a community swimming pool—a place at which their presence provoked anxiety and then panic. Many interpretations of the officer’s behavior have turned on the question of who broke what rules, but geographer Naomi Adiv argues that the debate has deeper spatial—and racial—implications.
Debates | Impossible Compliance: Policing as Violent Struggle over Bodies and Urban Space
The absence of charges brought in the case of a police murder of a Black lesbian in front of the homeless shelter where she lived reveals the impossibility of compliance with police authority for those already made criminal by race, disability, class, gender, and sexuality.
Debates | When Does Police Violence Cause Urban Unrest?
Cathy Lisa Schneider
In the summer of 2014, police killed Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in New York. Both men were black and unarmed. Both their deaths sparked national outrage. And both cases were turned over to a grand jury whose members failed to indict. But while the first case provoked weeks of violent police–community confrontation, the second initiated constructive political action. Drawing on interviews with people close to both men, Cathy Schneider argues that the difference amounts to the presence or absence of rooted civic organizations whose members hold authorities accountable for racialized police aggression.
Debates | Disarm the Police
In the current political debates about discriminatory policing, there has been a lack of serious discussion of disarmament. Gregory Smithsimon argues that disarming the police is not only an obvious way to avoid more deaths at the hands of officers, but also a means towards cultivating more respectful relationships between the police and communities of color.
Reviews | Confronting Police Violence and an Unjust Justice System
We publish Michele Graham’s review of the 2018 book The War on Neighborhoods: Policing, Prison, and Punishment in a Divided City as Black people in the US again endure the trauma of a murder in their community at the hands of police officers. Graham’s reflections on the authors’ findings (drawn from a neighborhood study in Chicago) emphasize the continuing legacies of historically racist policing, racist prosecution practices and racist incarceration patterns in the United States. The review also touches on Graham’s own encounters with state-sponsored violence in uniform: “I’ve witnessed my peers being stopped, frisked, and disrespected… I am pleased that The War on Neighborhoods has the data to prove that [systemic injustice] is more than a feeling. It affirms my lived experience.”
Essays | Community-Rooted Organizations: Enhanced Accountability and Capacity Building for Community Development
Camryn Smith, Danielle Spurlock, Aliyah Abdur‑Rahman & Kay Jowers
Communities in Partnership, in Durham, North Carolina, uses a “community-rooted” approach to its work that leverages community residents’ expertise and resources, as an alternative to “community-based” organizations that can marginalize community voice, limit capacity building, and neglect the underlying causes of community conditions.
From the Field | From Transit to Settlement. A Mexican Border Town’s Transition from a Transit Space to a Waiting Territory
Tanapan, a border town in southern Mexico has long been a point of passage for Central American migrants bound for the United States. Since 2014, new restrictions have gradually changed it into a waiting territory. How was it transformed into a new involuntary destination?
From the Field | Displacement, Demobilization, and Democracy: Current Eviction and Historic Dispossession in Richmond, Virginia
Kathryn Howell & Ben Teresa
High eviction rates in Black Richmond neighborhoods must be understood in the context of a long history of political and physical displacement that has suppressed activism in these neighborhoods.