Who Killed Oscar Grant?: A Legal-Eulogy of the Cultural Logic of Black Hyper-Policing in the Post-Civil Rights Era
Donald F. Tibbs
Thomas R. Kline School of Law
February 25, 2010
Drexel University Earle Mack School of Law Research Paper No. 1559489
To explain the appalling shooting death of African American Oscar Grant, on January 1, 2009, one must break free of the ‘crime and punishment’ paradigm to reckon the extra-punitive function of American policing as an instrument for the management of dispossessed and dishonored groups. This article places policing in the historical sequence of peculiar institutions that have shouldered the task of defining, confining, and controlling African American’s legal identity alongside slavery, Jim Crow, the American prison system. The recent upsurge in black violence related to policing results from the crisis of the legal system as device for caste control and the correlative need for a substitute apparatus for the containment of lower-class African Americans. In the post-Civil Rights era, the vestiges of policing black bodies alongside the rhetoric of law and order have become linked by a triple relationship of race, policing, and the law spawning a legal continuum that entraps a population of younger black men rejected by the deregulated wage-labor market. The resulting mesh not only perpetuates socioeconomic marginality and symbolically taints the black sub-proletariat, it also feeds the runaway growth of American incarceration. Perhaps more importantly, it plays a pivotal role in the remaking of ‘race’, the redefinition of the citizenry vis-à-vis the U.S. constitution, and the construction of a hyper-policed people in the post-Civil Rights era.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 42
Date posted: March 18, 2010