Boynton v. Virginia and the Anxieties of the Modern African-American Customer
Stetson Law Review, Vol. 49, 2020
Texas A&M University School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 20-05
25 Pages Posted: 11 May 2020 Last revised: 6 Aug 2020
Date Written: January 1, 2020
In 1958, Bruce Boynton was arrested for ordering food in a Whites-Only diner and charged with criminal trespass. Sixty years later, African Americans continue to face arrest and threat of arrest in commercial establishments based on discriminatory trespass claims. When store owners or employees decide to exclude would-be patrons from their establishment for discriminatory reasons, both overt and implicit, they rely on the police to enforce this form of discrimination. This article considers the legacy of Boynton v. Virginia, particularly the resonance of Boynton’s unaddressed claim, that the state enforcement of discriminatory trespass allegations is an Equal Protection violation.
African-American consumers continually experience the threat of police intervention or actual arrest as they shop in stores and sit in coffee shops. The Article argues that state enforcement of discriminatory trespass claims against African Americans results in unequal access to commercial establishments open to the public. Trespass allegations can result in lifelong concerns—legal and psychological consequences. The continued enforcement of discriminatory trespass claims cause significant harms, including demonstrative public health effects on African Americans. In recounting Boynton, the Article draws from its legacy forms of action to address discriminatory trespass enforcement.
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