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I’m working on a sociology multi-part question and need an explanation and answer to help me learn.

After reading the article, answer the following questions:

1- What do the authors mean by contemporary colonialism and how does it influence police behavior?

2- What was the impact of the war on drugs on urban residents, particularly on African Americans?

3- Give at least two tactics police use to control and manage the movements of the colonized

4-Tell us what value do you find in learning about the relationship between American policing and colonialism. How does it inform your understanding of the most recent wave of protests against police violence?

665639
research-article2016
SREXXX10.1177/2332649216665639Sociology of Race and EthnicitySteinmetz et al.
The Racial State and Policing in the United States
Wicked Overseers: American
Policing and Colonialism
Sociology of Race and Ethnicity
2017, Vol. 3(1) 68­–81
© American Sociological Association 2016
DOI: 10.1177/2332649216665639
sre.sagepub.com
Kevin F. Steinmetz1, Brian P. Schaefer2,
and Howard Henderson3
Abstract
In recent times, several tragic events have brought attention to the relationship between policing and
racial/ethnic minorities in the United States. Scholars, activists, and pundits have clamored to explain
tensions that have arisen from these police-related deaths. The authors contribute to the discussion by
asserting that contemporary policing in America, and its relationship to racial inequality, is only the latest
chapter in a broader historical narrative in which the police constitute the front line of a race- and classstratified social order. In other words, contemporary criminal justice and race struggles are a legacy of
colonialism. This essay begins with a brief overview of colonialism before turning toward dissecting the
contemporary colonial character of policing African American urban ghetto communities in four parts.
First, the emergence of ghettos as internal colonies is described. Second, mechanisms are given that
propelled the mass entry of police into ghetto spaces, with particular attention given to the war on drugs,
broken-windows and order-maintenance policing, and police militarization. Third, the authors explore
how contemporary policing acts to manage the colonized through police stops, searches, and other
practices. Finally, the relationship between American policing practices and cultural denigration of African
Americans is described.
Keywords
police, colonialism, internal colonialism, race, oppression
Repeat it very quickly in a crude voice sample
Overseer, overseer, overseer, overseer
Officer, officer, officer, officer
Yeah, officer from overseer
You need a little clarity? Check the similarity . . .
the police than young whites (Gabrielson, Jones,
and Sagara 2014). Inequalities are further reflected
in traffic stops (Alpert, Smith, and Dunham 2004;
Carroll and Gonzalez 2014; Engel and Calnon
2004), drug arrests (Goode 2002; Mitchell and
Caudy 2015), prison populations (Davis 2003;
—KRS-One, “Sound of da Police”
1
The recent deaths of Philando Castile, Alton Smith,
and others as a result of excessive police practices
have sparked intense national debate over race and
police use of force.1 Unease, dissatisfaction, anger,
and frustration were evident over the disparate
policing and incarceration of persons of color, particularly African Americans (Alexander 2010;
Tonry 2011). Despite an overall decrease in violent
crime, reports indicate that young black males are
approximately 21 times more likely to be killed by
Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social
Work, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS, USA
2
Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice,
Indiana State University, Terre Haute, IN, USA
3
Department of the Administration of Justice, Texas
Southern University, Houston, TX, USA
Corresponding Author:
Kevin F. Steinmetz, Kansas State University,
Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social
Work, Manhattan, KS 66506, USA.
Email: kfsteinmetz@ksu.edu
69
Steinmetz et al.
Mauer 2011; Spohn 2000), and the indirect impact
on family, friends, and communities (see Alexander
2010; Clear 2007; Pager 2010).
Explanations of these racial disparities have proliferated and generally fall within three categories:
differential involvement, differential enforcement,
and some combination thereof (Hindelang 1978).
Differential involvement explanations claim that
unequal criminal justice outcomes stem from differences in criminal activity between racial/ethnic
groups (Piquero and Brame 2008). Recent data, however, suggest that African Americans report similar
rates of criminality as whites yet have a greater likelihood of subsequent arrest, conviction, and postrelease
challenges (The Sentencing Project 2013).
Differential enforcement explanations, on the other
hand, tend to link unequal criminal justice exposure
and consequences to systemic or structural issues,
including selective enforcement, institutional racism,
socioeconomic disadvantages, biased assessment
instruments, administrative practices, and a lack of
effective legal counsel. These systemic issues are
said to result from a series of unintended or intended
consequences of criminal justice reform in the United
States (Murakawa 2014; Weaver 2007).
In the current essay we offer a structural and historical explanation in the differential enforcement
tradition. Rather than viewing unequal treatment in
criminal justice as a result of racism per se, we
argue that such inequality is in part a continuation
of the historical process of colonialism.2 Similar to
Gottschalk’s (2006) argument that “contemporary
penal policy actually has deep historical and institutional roots that predate the 1960s” (p. 4), in the current essay we posit that contemporary American
policing, and its relationship to racial inequality, is
only the latest chapter in an unremitting narrative in
which the police constitute the front line of a raceand class-stratified social order. In other words, this
inequality has emerged from the dialectical production and reproduction of colonial logics as part of
the broader culture of control (Garland 2001).
In recent decades, scholars have addressed the
role of colonialism in crime, crime control, and
criminological thought (Agozino 2003, 2004;
Saleh-Hanna 2008; Tatum 1994, 2000). From this
perspective, colonialism did not end after the age
of exploration. Instead, colonialism constitutes an
ongoing project of domination that has continued
to shape the material circumstances and crime control interactions of marginalized racial/ethnic populations. As explained by Glenn (2015), colonialism
“should be seen not as an event but as an ongoing
structure” (p. 57). Although late modernity may not
look like a prototypical colonial society, the impact
of colonial logics persist. Crime and criminal justice are not immune to its effects.
The objective of this essay is not to say that the
situation remains unchanged from the colonial
societies of old. Our current racialized social order,
however, is not wholly divorced from the past
either. Instead, contemporary society is merely
another step in the long march of history. In this
spirit, we argue that colonial logics did not disappear when colonies struggled for liberty (indeed,
some colonies continue to exist today). Rather,
colonialism has transformed over time, with many
strategies for stratifying and subjugating marginalized racial populations persisting in one form or
another. American criminal justice, particularly the
police, has often been on the front line in the
deployment of such tactics.
Before detailing the colonial character of contemporary American policing, we begin with a
brief overview of colonialism. We then describe the
colonial state of contemporary police-minority
interactions in four parts. First, the rise of the
hyperpoliced urban ghetto, one of the most significant contemporary colonial spaces in the United
States, is described. Second, policies that increased
the entry of police into ghettos are elucidated,
focusing primarily on the war on drugs, brokenwindows policing, and police militarization. Third,
we explore the management of colonized urban
populations through various police practices.
Finally, as part of the colonial process, we detail
the connection between policing and the denigration of the colonized and their culture.
Although colonialism has had tremendous
global impacts on numerous populations, describing in detail every impact colonialism has made on
criminal justice is beyond the scope of the essay.
This work serves as a starting point, focusing specifically on the colonial policing of African
Americans. Other analyses should consider the
experiences of other racial and ethnic groups across
other domains of criminal justice.
Colonialism
Colonialism is simultaneously a structure and a
process of oppression (Blauner 1969; Glenn 2015;
Pinderhughes 2011; Tatum 1994). It traditionally
involves the external domination of one group by
another through “forced, involuntary entry,” resulting in extracting labor and natural resources from
the colonized and their lands (Blauner 1969:396;
Fanon [1961] 2004; Glenn 2015; Ziltener and
70
Künzler 2013).3 Examples include the colonial
subordination of West Africa and the European
domination of North America and South America.
Second, colonialism is the imperialist expansion of
capitalism sustained by racial ideologies that cast
the colonized as mentally, morally, spiritually, culturally, or biologically inferior (DuBois 1915;
Lenin 1939; Losurdo 2014). Thus colonization is
justified by the colonizers on the grounds that the
oppressed are undeserving of the rights and dignities enjoyed by the dominant caste or that such subordination is in the best interests of the colonized
(paternalism) (Saleh-Hanna 2008; Tatum 1994). In
the domination of a region and people for exploitative purposes, the colonized are cast into a permanent or semipermanent underclass or working
class. They provide exploitable labor and, when no
longer needed, are discarded. Characteristics such
as skin color become associated with class position, generating what Brucato (2014) termed the
color line, which allows the control of African
Americans and divides “the working class along
racial lines” (p. 31). Such a link ensures that no
matter how high a colonized person rises in prestige, he or she will almost always be of a lower
status than the colonizing class composed of white
elites and members of the white working classes
(status is sustained only as long as the colonized
support the colonial order).
Colonialism involves not only the domination
of geography and persons but the conquering of
symbolic space through (1) the destruction of
native culture and (2) the dissemination of the
dominant classes’ worldview (Scott 1985). Thus, in
the words of Fanon (1961), “the colonized world is
a world divided in two” (p. 3). This bifurcation
occurs in a manner similar to Gramsci’s (1971)
descriptions of governance under hegemony, which
operates at two levels: “civil society” and “political
society.” Civil society is composed of educational
centers, religious organizations, political parties,
and other institutions through which hegemonic
consciousness is created. Among the exploited, this
consciousness instills “a mood of submission and
inhibition which considerably eases the task of
agents of law and order” (Fanon 1961:3–4).
Furthermore, civil society provides the ideological
mechanisms that legitimate and justify domination
among the colonizers; the colonized are constructed as deserving of their domination in one
form or another.
The political society consists of institutions that
rely on coercion to control behaviors, such as the
government, police, and military (Kiros 1985). The
Sociology of Race and Ethnicity 3(1)
political society is thus concerned with the management of the colonized population. According to
Fanon (1961), “In colonial region . . . the proximity
and frequent, direct intervention by the police and the
military ensure the colonized are kept under close
scrutiny, and contained by rifle butts and napalm”
(p. 4). Gramsci (1971) argued that “these two levels
correspond on one hand to the function of ‘hegemony’ which the dominant group exercises throughout society and on the other hand that of ‘direct
domination’ or command exercised through the state
and the ‘juridical government’” (p. 12). Thus civil and
political society are mutually supportive. Colonized
populations are “re-educated” into colonial society
and, when resistance is given; institutions of formal
social control, such as the police, ensure compliance
through force and coercion (Tatum 1994).
Although colonialism is typically envisioned as
the invasion and subsequent domination of indigenous peoples by outsiders, scholars have also
argued that colonialism can occur between populations occupying the same geography. The concept
of internal colonialism emerged in the 1960s and
1970s from the African American civil rights and
black nationalist movements as an attempt to
explain contemporary forms of racial domination
(Allen 1969, 2005; Blauner 1969; Pinderhughes
2010, 2011). For these scholars and activists, colonialism did not end after the West finished claiming
foreign land and people for its own. Even after
occupation began to wane and chattel slavery was
abolished, other forms of spatial and economic
exclusion of racial/ethnic underclasses persisted,
even within Western or westernized nations. In
other words, the logics of colonialism persisted.4
Throughout the history of colonial expansion
and domination, the police have been instrumental
in securing and maintaining order. Much as the
police become “class-biased” by operating as “the
‘neutral’ enforcers of class-biased law,” the police
become race biased as they manage colonial populations (Harring 1983:103). In this way, “the law fundamentally structures police action” (Herbert
1998:352) and the police “do the dirty work for the
larger system” (Blauner 1969:404). Thus, “the government and its laws protect the interest of the colonizers. The prosecution of injustices against the
native receive little governmental support and the
native learns that he should expect nothing from the
colonizer’s justice system” (Tatum 1994:36). In
each historical era of colonialism, the police (and
military) act as frontline enforcers of laws that represent the interests of the dominant classes that adopt a
particular racial character in American society
Steinmetz et al.
(Brucato 2014). This enforcement contributes to
broader economic, social, cultural, political, and
spatial forms of domination endemic to colonialism.
In a contemporary colonial society such as the
United States, such efforts have taken the form of
slave patrols, the enforcement of segregative laws
such as the black codes and Jim Crow laws, and, as
will be argued here, the war on drugs, broken-windows
and zero-tolerance policing, and police militarization. To fully understand the colonial implications of
contemporary policing, it is first necessary to
describe the rise of one of the most significant internal colonies today: the urban ghetto.
Policing the Colonized
Creating a Colony: The Rise of the
Urban Ghetto
Throughout the history of racial oppression in
America, spatial restrictions have been instrumental. Under chattel slavery, African lands were
invaded and its people were captured and shipped
across the Atlantic to be traded. These slaves were
subsequently confined to plantations, houses, and
other spaces of servitude. After emancipation,
sharecropping and/or debt-peonage were used to
lock freed slaves into servitude to white elite-owned
land. black codes and vagrancy laws controlled the
movements of freed slaves and provided readymade justifications for incarcerating such persons.
These forms of confinement, however, were more
prominently featured in the American South. In the
North before the 1900s, “blacks and whites [often]
lived side by side in American cities” (Massey and
Denton 1993:17). The particular spatial dislocation
of African Americans in urban cities predominantly
occurred in the twentieth century as more blacks
fled to cities to escape the circumstances of the rural
South (Alexander 2010; Massey and Denton 1993).
The period between 1910 and 1970 saw “less rigid
de facto segregation in urban internal colonies”
(Pinderhughes 2011:252).
As African Americans transitioned into urban
spaces, the black working class expanded, particularly in the “industrial production and service sectors,” with some expansion of the African American
petty bourgeoisie (Pinderhughes 2011:252). At the
same time, unemployment intensified among
African Americans (Pinderhughes 2011). With few
exceptions, the result was the creation of a large
working class and surplus population that was still
categorically subordinated under the auspices of
racial inferiority.
71
In addition to employment exclusion or lowered
status within the division of labor, other mechanisms of economic suppression were at work. For
example, during the early to mid-1990s, while the
federal government actively promoted home ownership among white Americans, it also systematically excluded racial and ethnic minorities from
such initiatives and devalued their properties
through practices such as “redlining” (Massey and
Denton 1993:51). As landed property has historically been one of the best mechanisms of wealth
accumulation, these practices crippled the ability
of many African Americans to generate and maintain wealth—vital for both geographic and social
mobility. Combined with pushes to make suburban
housing an affordable option for whites and black
petty bourgeoisie seeking upward mobility by the
Federal Housing Administration in the 1940s and
1950s, whites and well-to-do blacks were able to
flee urban centers (Massey and Denton 1993;
Pinderhughes 2011). This left many poor and
working-class racial and ethnic minorities, particularly working blacks, hamstrung in concentrated
urban centers losing value (and status) by the day.
During this process, however, “most cities were
not completely stripped of their middle and upper
classes” (Massey and Denton 1993:55). Many businesses, city services, and other institutions were still
bound to inner city areas “by large capital investments,
spatially immobile facilities, and long-standing traditions” (Massey and Denton 1993:55). When confronted with an increasingly (and systematically)
impoverished black population within these spaces,
wealthy elites and government officials turned to
“redevelopment,” urban renewal, or gentrification:
the reclamation of urban areas for middle- and
upper-class activities and living. Policy initiatives,
such as the housing acts of 1949 and 1954 enacted
by Congress, gave funding and momentum toward
these initiatives provided that they also created
housing for the displaced. Public housing was born.
In other words, these pushes, and others, have
affected poor African Americans by reducing
opportunities for social mobility and confining
them to unfavorable geographic locations that
“become progressively isolated—geographically,
socially, and economically—from the rest of society” (Massey and Denton 1993:2).
In this manner, contemporary urban areas
reflect demarcated space on the basis of occupational status and the separation of low-income populations from the well-to-do (Dreier, Mollenkopf,
and Swanstrom 2001). The state plays a key role in
establishing and maintaining these geographies
72
through property protections, zoning laws, housing
policies, and capital investment (Blomley 1994).
Such maneuvers are strikingly similar to the forced
reallocations of populations under prototypical
colonial rule.
None of this, however, is to say that these
changes affected African Americans alone. Poor
whites and other racial/ethnic minorities have also
been affected by the creation of the ghetto (Websdale
2001). Considering that most ghettos, however,
possess a disproportionate concentration of African
Americans, the situation appears racially skewed
(Websdale 2001). The ghetto thus emerged as an
internal colonial space because of how both racism
and the political economy have acted to systematically marginalize African Americans into poor (and
often crime-ridden) locations. The establishment of
the urban ghetto subsequently gave rise to conditions that justified the “forced, involuntary entry” of
the police into these spaces (Blauner 1969:396).
Entry into the Colonies
As African Americans were disproportionately displaced into urban ghettos, a connection formed in
the public mind between ghetto residents and
crime, which inextricably linked perceptions of
danger to skin color other forms of expression present among ghetto residents (e.g., clothing, dance,
music, graffiti art) (Weaver 2007). Ghettos were
increasingly becoming places of not just crime but
black crime. Criminal justice became the intervention of choice—an intervention that involves the
direct and indirect control of urban denizens but
does little to address the root structural causes of
the misery that spawns crime. In fact, the policing
of these spaces appears to have only exacerbated
the problems confronting African Americans in
urban ghettos (Alexander 2010; Murakawa 2014).
When contemporary African American ghettos
were fully established in the 1980s, President
Reagan declared the war on drugs. The central concern for the Reagan administration and others was
the ascendance of crack cocaine as the next big
drug “epidemic.” Crack was cast as an antecedent
to many current and future problems in America.
Experts prophesied about an impending societal
descendent at the hands of crack babies and superpredators (Murakawa 2014).
The war on drugs drastically increased police
presence and power in the internal colonies. The
policy mandated drastic increases in police presence throughout many urban areas. Although the
heavy policing of these districts was billed as a
Sociology of Race and Ethnicity 3(1)
response to upticks in urban crime (Lea and Young
1984; Miller 2015; Weaver 2007), much of the
legitimacy of this campaign was propelled by
moral panics (Becker 1963; Cohen 1972; Kappeler
and Potter 2005).5 Ghetto spaces were constructed
as terrifying abodes of black urban decay. Crime
and victimization were said to run rampant. In
addition, paternalistic rhetoric and imagery were
deployed that cast poor urban denizens as incapable of resolving the problems wrought by crack.
Criminal justice intervention was thus deemed necessary. Throughout the history of colonialism,
paternalism has been instrumental in legitimating
the imposition of control (Losurdo 2014; SalehHanna 2008).
Coinciding with the development of the war on
drugs was the emergence of a new paradigm in policing that primarily targeted urban ghettos: brokenwindows policing. Stated simply, the theory posits
that incivilities and disorder crimes—panhandling,
public drunkenness, and so on—create perceptions
that areas are in decline and unsafe (Kelling and
Wilson 1982). People would subsequently hide in
their homes and withdraw from social life, resulting
in the weakening of community social bonds and
reductions in supervision. The erosion of such social
ties and community monitoring would in turn produce increases in serious crime. Kelling and Wilson
(1982) thus argued that communities and police
must work together to address the symptoms of disorder to prevent worse crimes from emerging. The
broken-windows thesis was first applied in New
York City, where Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and his
police commissioner, William Bratton, emphasized
the enforcement of routine minor incivilities and disorder as a means of establishing informal social control and reestablishing control of communities.6 The
broken-windows thesis was used to justify the entry
of police into urban ghettos as a means of rebuilding
communities.
In the atmosphere produced by broken windows, zero-tolerance approaches became prevalent
in combatting drug- and gun-related criminal activity (Newburn and Jones 2007). Zero-tolerance
policies are a rhetorical device used to signal the
uncompromising action by the state against criminal activity, emphasizing the need for “crime control” over “due process” (Newburn and Jones
2007). Broken-windows theory and zero-tolerance
policies together represent a paternalistic notion
that communities cannot take care of themselves,
and thus police are needed to civilize these spaces.
The notions of disrepair, broken communities,
and moral deprivation through the crack epidemic
Steinmetz et al.
were powerful messages that, for many politicians
and members of the general public, justified and
even necessitated intervention in the ghetto. In the
process, urban ghettos have become synonymous
with war zones in the public imagination. The
police are viewed as soldiers on the front line
against disorder, becoming increasingly militarized
as a result of the war on drugs, the expansion of
criminal justice following the Crime Omnibus Act
of 1990, and the changes to American policing in
the wake of the events of 9/11 (Kappeler and
Kraska 2015; Kraska 2001; Kraska and Kappeler
1997; Murakawa 2014). Many departments began
to deploy more aggressive tactics and adopt military equipment and technology (Kraska 2007;
Kraska and Kappeler 1997). Special Weapons and
Tactics (SWAT) units proliferated (Kraska 2001).
As a result, contemporary urban ghettos resemble
military occupation zones. Once forced entry into a
colonial space is established, the police then turn
toward sustained management of the colonized is
necessary to keep the colonized contained and surveilled within designated areas. In the next section
we detail police policies and practices that manage
urban ghettos.
Managing the Colonized
The primary role of police in internal colonies is to
control the movements and activities of colonial
populations for the benefit of colonizers, similar to
Gramsci’s descriptions of the role of political society. The management practices rising from war on
drug, broken windows, and police militarization
policies have resulted in considerable control of
minority populations. As alluded to previously,
research indicates the application of aggressive
policing (stemming primarily from the war on
drugs and broken-windows policing) is disproportionately felt in minority communities (Alexander
2010; Meares 2015). Considering that offending
rates between races do not mirror criminal justice
involvement, the imposition of criminal justice
control may not necessarily be a response to black
crime per se but may reflect an ideological desire to
control black behavior more generally.
Routine police practices—such as traffic stops,
stop-and-frisks, and others—are key mechanisms
for controlling racial and ethnic minorities. For
instance, the number of minorities stopped and
frisked in New York City rose considerably with
the introduction of broken-windows policing. In a
report by the Office of the New York State Attorney
General (1999), African Americans constituted 50
73
percent of all persons stopped yet make up only 15
percent of the population. Furthermore, nearly twothirds of stops conducted by the street crimes units
involved stopping African Americans.
Walking is not the only activity that exposes
minority populations to police scrutiny. Racial and
ethnic minorities are also disproportionately subjected to traffic stops and vehicle searches. Research
on police traffic stops reveals that blacks and
Hispanics are more likely than whites to be stopped
and searched by the police (Alpert, MacDonald, and
Dunham 2005; Engel and Calnon 2004; Epps,
Maynard-Moody, and Haider-Markel 2014; Rojek,
Rosenfeld, and Decker 2012). Epps et al. (2014)
found that African American men are “by far the
most likely to be stopped for investigatory reasons”
(p. 66) and that stops of African Americans are most
prevalent in suburban areas, where they are perceived as out of place. Furthermore, the study
revealed that blacks are handcuffed and arrested at
higher rates than whites. The authors argued that
these stops are a product of discriminatory institutional practices that “grow from and reproduce
negative racial stereotypes” (p. 12). The persistent
exposure to stops by the police leads to experience
of continual harassment (Brunson and Miller 2006).
Beyond routine police practices, research on
drug interdiction efforts similarly reveals racial
bias. Beckett, Nyrop, and Pfingst (2006) examined
Seattle’s drug arrests, finding that 64 percent of
those arrested for delivering drugs (methamphetamine, ecstasy, powder cocaine, and heroin) were
black despite whites’ being the majority of those
who deliver methamphetamine, ecstasy, powder
cocaine, and heroin in Seattle. The authors suggested that it is difficult to explain these findings in
race-neutral terms. Instead, actions of the Seattle
Police Department appear shaped by racial cues
(Correll et al. 2002; Sampson and Raudenbush
2004). Two-thirds of persons incarcerated in state
prison for drug offenses are African American or
Latino, a disparity largely attributed to law enforcement practices (Beckett et al. 2006).
The police also make use of civil injunctions to
control black bodies within urban ghettos “through
mechanisms of criminalization” that “draw heavily
from the broken windows theory of policing”
(Muñiz 2015:37).7 Many police departments now
conduct broad sweeps in inner-city neighborhoods
using loose criteria to identify persons as gang
members. Gang units tend to view gangs as lowincome, inner-city, minority youths, who sport
urban cultural garb and are lumped together through
simple stereotypes and treated suspiciously (Muñiz
74
2015; Stewart 1998). Many white youth in similar
socioeconomic and status positions often do not
receive such labels. “No white supremacist groups,”
Muñiz (2015) pointed out, “have gang injunctions
[either]” (p. 46). Klein (2004) found that gang officers’ perceptions of gangs often did not match
research findings, noting that the police “portrayed
gangs as violent criminal enterprise, fundamentally
different from other social groups and divorced
from local community problems” (p. 43). These
sweeps consist of indiscriminate stopping and questioning of local residents to compile lists of known
gang members (Bass 2001; Durán 2013). Once
identified as a gang member, an individual is subject to enhanced penalties and civil injunctions.
Police management practices are increasingly
present in schools in which there are strong links
between race/ethnicity and poverty and school-level
punishment policies (see Irwin, Davidson, and HallSanchez 2013). Kupchik and Ward (2014) found that
metal detectors are more common in schools serving
large numbers of youth of color, exposing these students to practices that divert them into the criminal
justice system for misbehavior. They also found that
exclusionary policies are more common in poor elementary and middle schools. The expansion of zerotolerance policies in schools is the natural extension
of the extensive arrests of young black children. In
2011 there were more than 75,000 arrests of black
children for disorder crimes such as curfew violations, loitering, and vandalism (Murakawa 2014).
Many of the day-to-day police practices are
shaped within the context of militarization. For
instance, although SWAT units were originally limited to active shooter, barricaded subject, and hostage situations, Kraska and Kappeler (1997) found
that 76 percent of paramilitary activity involved
narcotics work, including serving warrants and
routine patrol. The militarization of the police also
contributes to the management of riots and protests
through forceful pacification demonstrated in the
police actions the deaths of Michael Brown and
Freddie Gray (Bergesen and Herman 1998; Dahlke
1952; Olzak, Shanahan, and McEneaney 1996;
Websdale 2001). In fact, protests and riots are the
most likely events to trigger police marching down
the streets donning combat boots, urban camouflage, riot shields, and assault rifles while riding
astride all-terrain vehicles. Similar to historical
labor riots, police are used to quell unrest while
leaving root causes of such furor unaddressed—
they pacify (Harring 1983; Kienscherf 2014;
Websdale 2001; Zinn 2005). Ideologically, state
violence is constructed as necessary to restore
Sociology of Race and Ethnicity 3(1)
order, whereas riotous violence is portrayed as dangerous and in need of suppression by tear gas and
batons (Agozino 2003; Brucato 2014; Weaver
2007). Furthermore, the overwhelming police presence in urban areas and their racially disparate
operations are part of the systemic issues that generate such protests and revolts (Kienscherf 2014).
Dialectically, control creates its own resistance.
The aggressive and militarized policing of drug
activity also provides an exploitive funding stream
for municipal governments and police departments.
The Institute of Justice reported the that U.S. treasury and the justice departments forfeited more than
$5 billion largely through narcotic warrants and
arrests (Carpenter et al. 2015). Narcotic seizures
and forfeitures are just one form whereby police
departments exploit the underclasses, especially
minorities, through monetary dispossession. Zerotolerance policing models also lead to the exacerbation of fines and outstanding warrants that contribute
to local government coffers. In Ferguson, Missouri,
the municipal court issued 32,975 arrest warrants in
2013, despite the city’s population of only 21,000
residents (U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights
Division 2015). Ninety-two percent of these warrants were issued to African Americans, who were
68 percent less likely than others to have their court
cases dismissed. The City of Ferguson (2014) accumulated $2.4 million in revenue from court fees and
fines in 2013. The practice of accumulating revenue
through fines and fees is related to the carceral state
expanding by enforcing civil and administrative
laws (Beckett and Murakawa 2012). Law enforcement are now bringing criminal charges on administrative issues such as failing to carry immigration
documents, as is the case in Arizona due to Senate
Bill 1070. Another common form of administrative
violation is warrants’ being sought for nonpayment
of financial obligations such as child support. The
extensive use of warrants as a means for enforcing
civil or administrative violations provides police
with additional opportunities to stop, question, and
frisk minorities and to expand carceral control in
minority communities (Beckett and Murakawa
2012; U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights
Division 2015). The practices of revenue generation through seizures, forfeitures, fines, and warrants exploits the economically vulnerable and
especially harms African American populations
(Alexander 2010; Beckett and Murakawa 2012;
Goffman 2009; Murakawa 2014). Districts affected
by such practices are essentially subjected to resource
extraction, a prototypical objective of colonial
domination.
Steinmetz et al.
Police departments also deploy military technologies, originally developed to monitor insurgents in
war, to track high-risk offenders in U.S. communities (Ferguson 2012). Furthermore, more than 150
police departments use predictive policing technology to concentrate policing strategies in high-risk
neighborhoods that often mirror minority neighborhoods. Harcourt (2015) explained how risk assessment tools have largely quantified risk as prior
criminal history or contact, and both have become a
proxy for race. Ferguson (2012) argued that predictive policing software turns individuals unknown to
the police into possible suspects who need to be
investigated to justify reasonable suspicion and thus
potentially increases the use of stop-and-frisk incidents or aggressive questioning.
Aggressive police practices and the associated
overenforcement give rise to an adversarial model
of policing in which racial profiling, pretextual
stops, unlawful searches and arrests, botched raids,
and excessive force incidents proliferate as a means
to maintain control and spatially exclude colonial
populations. The overpolicing of the colonial space
is further enhanced by the underenforcement of
laws in these communities, reflected by slower
response times to emergency calls within these
areas (Klinger 1997; Smith and Klein 1984) and a
general irreverence toward black residents’ concerns (Mastrofski, Reisig, and McCluskey 2002;
Weitzer 1999). These practices are rooted in police
departments’ failure to offer black communities the
model of nonadversarial and dignified policing
often enjoyed by whites (Brown 2005). The conclusion emerges that the police exist not to serve
these communities but to control and contain them.
They manage black populations and places.
Cultural Devaluation
and Subjugation
Within the descriptions of police entry and management of colonized populations and spaces is an
undercurrent of language and imagery that promotes racialized ideologies that legitimate or
necessitate law enforcement intervention to (1)
“protect” middle classes, whites, and various elites
from the threats posed by ghetto denizens and (2)
“save” such urban residents from themselves.
Amidst the spatial, economic, and political segregation that coincided with the creation of contemporary urban ghettos, ghettos themselves were
problematized as dens of racialized criminality.
Like many colonized populations, urban denizens
found their culture—their artwork, music, clothing
75
style, and so on—labeled as degenerate and dangerous (Bogazianos 2011; Ferrell 1993).
When broken-windows policing emerged, connections between African Americans, ghettos, and
crime were exacerbated through the use of terms
such as decency and civility, which ran rampant in
academic descriptions and political rhetoric
(Harcourt 2001; Herbert 2001; Kelling and Wilson
1982; Meares 2015). These terms became code
words for racial and class statuses (Harcourt 2001).
The situation “was clear to poor New Yorkers and
especially people of color and many immigrants that
these norms expressed particular middle-class, white,
often suburban interests, ambitions, and identities”
(Smith 2001:70). Whiteness becomes the metric by
which all behavior is judged, and minority behaviors
that do not meet white norms become indicators of
criminality (Brucato 2014). Furthermore, police
activities in neighborhoods populated by significant
numbers of racial and ethnic minorities signify to
outsiders that crime problems do not occur in predominantly white neighborhoods—crime is problem
predominantly associated with racial others. When
crime does occur in white neighborhoods, the problem is treated as a product of interlopers’ trespassing
in otherwise safe locales, promoting the need for spatial control of dangerous populations (Herbert and
Brown 2006). Predominantly white spaces need to be
protected from sources of disorder to prevent the
“criminal element” from invading (Herbert 2001). In
other words, crime in this context is viewed as a
result of the populations of dangerous (racialized)
spaces spilling over into unapproved locations that
requires law enforcement intervention to contain
(Muñiz 2015).
The use of civil injunction reflects the practices
of criminalizing and stereotyping cultural expressions and practices as a way legitimate the control
of minority bodies, movement, and spaces. For
example, the documentation developed by police on
known gang activity is used to restrict behaviors
including
loitering in public, being seen in public with
two more known gang members, trespassing on
private property without written consent of the
owner, disorderly conduct, wearing gang
clothing, violating curfews, littering, blocking
of free passage of streets and parks, and noise.
(Bass 2001:170)
Thus, the reliance on vague stereotypes to identify
gang members allows the suppression and exclusion of many inner-city minorities from public
76
spaces, and simple association with known gang
members can become a punishable offense (Bass
2001; Stewart 1998). Policing gangs and the use of
injunctions serves the dual purpose of controlling
crime and criminalizing culture.
Cultural subjugation occurs hand in hand with
the production of race. The particular imagery and
language used by policymakers and law enforcement officials has helped construct African American
culture, particularly young black men, as a dangerous criminal threat. These cultural symbols allow
departments to act outside of de jure racism and
criminalize other indicators of racial status (clothing, mannerisms, and other noncriminal or otherwise nuisance forms of behaviors). Such “colorblind
racism” encourages the belief that racial disparities
in traffic stops, drug arrests, and general police practices are the result of individual decisions to commit
crime rather a result of explicit systemic racial bias
(Bonilla-Silva 2006; Schaefer and Kraska 2012). In
the eagerness of the colonial machine to eradicate all
notions of racism, law enforcement turns to an
objective tool to predict risk and guide enforcement
practices, which in turn generates new justifications
for police presence and carceral control in ghetto
communities predicated on the need to remove dangerous individuals. Yet the expansion of risk assessment and predictive policing tools, originally
developed to track insurgents by the military, creates
another narrative for police departments to justify
their heavy presence in minority communities. For
instance, researchers examined the validity of
Northpointe’s risk assessment tool in Broward
County, Florida, and found that the risk algorithm
was twice as likely to label black defendants as
future criminals compared with whites (Angwin et al.
2016). Furthermore, white defendants were mislabeled as low risk more than black defendants
(Angwin et al. 2016). The risk assessment tools use
prior criminal history and other factors that largely
come from state interactions and disparate law
enforcement treatments, which compounds the
issues associated with colonial spaces.
The continuation of racism in police practices
can be seen in the enforcement actions toward
drugs. Linnemann and Wall (2013) show how the
Faces of Meth (FOM) campaign ties the power of
police with the power of the image to tie the use of
methamphetamine to white trash, a rare instance in
which whiteness was the central focus of police
power. Yet the FOM campaign’s purpose was to
detach white methamphetamine users as white
trash to maintain “purity, or hegemonic whiteness”
(Linnemann and Wall 2013:330). Despite the
Sociology of Race and Ethnicity 3(1)
overall connection of methamphetamine to whites,
producers and traffickers are increasingly coming
to be seen as Latino/a, and thus the threat of methamphetamine is being reimagined as a minority
issue (Garriott 2010). Drug dealers in the suburbs
are policed very differently than those in the ghetto
(Jacques and Wright 2015; Manning 1980). When
the perception is that user populations are white,
there is a search for answers to address the root
problems associated with drug use, but when the
population consists of racial/ethnic minorities, the
response is to demonize and punish. These patterns
have been seen historically with disparities in crack
versus cocaine sentencing and more recent shifts
toward rehabilitation and the decriminalization of
heroin (Mauer 2009). An increase in heroin use by
African Americans in the 1960s was blamed for a
rise in violent crime and a harsh criminal justice
response. The more recent increase in heroin use by
white persons has resulted in pushes for rehabilitation (Cicero et al. 2014).
Conclusion
As articulated in this article, contemporary policing in the United States continues to perpetuate
systems of inequality and domination that, in many
ways, mirror colonial forms of control. As the line
between police and military has become increasingly blurred in recent decades, the police become
law enforcers and a militarized occupation within
these communities (Kraska 2007). The use of a
militarized police force to invade and occupy these
spaces is quintessential colonialism; as Tatum
(1994) explains, “the police and the soldiers are the
official maintainers of the colonizers and their rule
of oppression” (p. 36). Ghetto communities are
wracked by poverty, victimization, segregation,
and other problems. None of these issues, however,
are remedied by such occupation. Police operations
appear to focus on containment of urban people
and problems rather than resolving the structural
forms of oppression that have shaped these spaces.
Law enforcement and the military become tools of
domination against the colonized people under the
guise of maintaining law and order. The police thus
help create, recreate, and manage a racialized
“problem population” or “dangerous class” pushed
to the margins of the labor market and political priority—or, as Brucato (2014) explained, they maintain the “color line” (Shelden 2008; Spitzer 1975).
As also argued in this analysis, the police shore up
these spaces for business growth and expansion.
Ghetto residents are further displaced or
Steinmetz et al.
suppressed for the purposes of “urban renewal”
and similar efforts.
When considered as a whole, the policies and
practices described throughout this analysis reveal
that many poor African Americans were (1) pushed
into wretched spaces such as the urban ghetto; (2)
symbolically and paternalistically connected to
social maladies (such as crime); (3) subjected to an
influx of police forces to control and supervise
their behavior, both inside and outside of the
ghetto; (4) inflicted with police strategies designed
to “civilize”; (5) treated as if their neighborhoods
were war zones; and (6) financially exploited
through fines and displaced via gentrification and
“urban renewal” initiatives for the sake of business
growth and development. When considered in toto,
these characteristics reflect the colonial occupations of old. Even calling such practices “neocolonial” seems inappropriate; these practices are
surprisingly colonial in a classical sense.
The state’s role in maintaining order in public
spaces also shapes the development of urban capitalism (Mitchell 2003). Contemporary police practices such as broken windows are innovations in
state management, emphasizing the need to maintain order and improve the health of communities to
revitalize capital investment in low-income neighborhoods (Smith 1996). Urban denizens are considered a problem population that must be pushed out
or pulled up to make room for growth and redevelopment (Spitzer 1975). Even when well intentioned,
seemingly benign liberal intentions often mask
deeper, paternalistic power relations (Murakawa
2015). Police, as the front line of status quo maintenance, perform the grunt work for broader policies
and initiatives that affect the lived material existence of populations relegated to urban ghetto
spaces (Brucato 2014; Neocleous 2000). Thus
police buttress these spaces and control their denizens so that capital can profit (gentrified locations,
tourism, etc.)—the same mechanisms colonists
have historically deployed to exploit places and
people since the sixteenth century.
Beyond unpacking the relationship between
African Americans and the police through colonialism, this analysis bears broader implications for the
sociological understanding of race and racism
within the United States. We agree with Glenn’s
(2015) argument that other theories of race “do not
explicitly consider . . . whether and in what ways
U.S. national and regional racial systems may be
unique and/or idiosyncratic because they have
grown out of distinct material, social, and cultural
circumstances” (p. 69). Although our focus is specifically on policing, this analysis supports the
77
broader conclusion that contemporary racial
inequality can be understood as a result of enduring
historical processes and structures linked to colonial
domination. In fact, considering that the police
often constitute the front line of the status quo, this
study perhaps taps into the most visceral and immediate material consequences of ongoing colonialism
for the marginalized. Furthermore, this analysis
allows current police-minority community tensions
to be understood not as the result of a few “rotten
apples” but a result of a “rotten barrel” (Kappeler,
Sluder, and Alpert 1998). It must be recognized that
policing cannot be understood without examining
broader structural elements, and those structures
themselves cannot be understood without considering the role of the police in maintaining control.
Black Lives Matter, for instance, did not arise out of
indignation over a few errant officers. Rather, the
movement erupted as a result of pressure created
over time by a system that continually subjected
African Americans to the colonial “technologies” of
control (Glenn 2015:62). The particular appearance
of the control may have changed over time, but the
technologies of “containment (separation and segregation) . . . erasure (culture assimilation) . . . terrorism (violence, lynching), and . . . removal
(expulsion, deportation)” have persisted in one
form or another, with the police serving as a key
institution in their implementation and management
(Glenn 2015:62). This analysis points to broader,
systemic forms of domination through colonialism
beyond the barrel of a gun or the end of a truncheon.
The police are part and parcel to an entire structure
of oppression (Alexander 2010; Murakawa 2015;
Platt et al. 1977).
The account offered here is undoubtedly incomplete. Colonialism is an expansive and pervasive
structure and process. There are, therefore, a multitude of colonial dynamics left unexplored in this
single article. In addition, various components of
policing were not mentioned here for the purposes
of brevity. For instance, scholars have noted that
colonialism tends to fill leadership ranks in economic, educational, law enforcement, and military
institutions with members of the colonizing population (Blauner 1969). Racial and ideological dynamics in the hiring of African Americans within
policing agencies may be linked to colonial logics.
Future research should also consider the colonial
implications for the policing of other racial/ethnic
groups. The impact of colonial policing on Hispanic
and Latino communities was alluded to throughout
the study, yet these populations have unique experiences with colonialism within the United States.
Contemporary immigration policies such as the
78
Sociology of Race and Ethnicity 3(1)
Delegation of Immigration Authority Section
287(g) Immigration and Nationality Act, commonly
known as 287(g), are part of a concerted effort to
exclude Latino immigrants from the United States,
forcing them back toward Central and South
American countries, many of which are subjected to
imperialistic exploitation by Western countries such
as the United States. Such policies allow the heavily
racialized policing of our borders against alleged
economic or terroristic threats but may more
broadly serve the interests of white capitalism (such
as the economic exploitation of Mexico through
policies including the North American Free Trade
Agreement) (Fernández-Kelly and Massey 2007).
Similarly, unique colonial experiences may be evident regarding the policing of Native Americans.
Laurence Armand French (2016) provides a sweeping overview of the history and contemporary circumstances of the relationship between the police
and Native American populations, but more
research is needed.
Future research should take seriously the contemporary and historical linkages between race, policing,
as well as structures and processes of colonialism.
Rather than viewing such inequalities as stemming
from amorphous systems of “racism” in social consciousness, colonialism provides an explanatory
mechanism dialectically nuanced and grounded in
the historical materialist formations of contemporary
society, including its institutions of social control.
Recent crises in American policing are not new developments. They are the products of long-running contradictions in American society—contradictions an
attunement to colonialism helps unravel.
Declaration of Conflicting
Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest
with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
Funding
The author(s) received no financial support for the
research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
Notes
1.
2.
If history remains true, by the time this article is
published, there will be more current names that
could be included.
Like Saleh-Hanna (2008), we reject the idea of
“neocolonialism,” as many of the strategies adopted
under contemporary colonialism are not necessarily
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
new and, indeed, trace their genesis to tactics used
in early colonialism. As such, current colonialism is
not so much “new” as it is “contemporary.”
Many articulations within the literature treat colonialism as primarily a form of racial domination.
This analysis, however, argues that under colonial
rule, race and class are intimately linked (Gans
2005; Losurdo 2014). Race and racism have historically emerged as an ideology to legitimate the cultural, social, economic, and political subordination
of populations for the purposes of economic expansion and accumulation, a project so complete that
bodies were converted into exportable resources. As
a legacy of the ongoing colonial project, contemporary racism’s genesis and maintenance are thus
a product of political economic forces that have
shaped material conditions globally.
Pinderhughes (2011) defined internal colonialism
as “a geographically-based pattern of subordination of a differentiated population, locating within
the dominant power or country. This subordination
by a dominant power has the outcome of systematic
group inequality expressed in the policies and practices of a variety of societal institutions, including
systems of education, public safety (police, courts
and prisons), health, employment, cultural production, and finance [emphasis in original]” (p. 236).
We recognize that urban communities may often
want crime control, as they are the most frequently
victimized. The particular form and function of
criminal justice intervention, however, has largely
failed to protect these areas from crime and has
served, instead, as an institution designed largely to
control the “dangerous classes” (Shelden 2008).
When Giuliani and Bratton took office, the New
York Police Department published eight new policing strategies. The fifth, “Reclaiming the Public
Spaces of New York” was the linchpin, with Bratton
stating, “we are going to fix the broken windows
and prevent anyone from breaking them again”
(Bratton and Knobler 1998:229).
Civil injunctions are used to restrict the behavior of
gang members in public spaces. According to Bass
(2001), police and prosecutors compile dossiers of
suspected gang members and their associates and
use this information to restrict individuals from
engaging in certain behaviors in certain neighborhoods. These behaviors include being in public with
two or more gang members, trespassing on private
property, violating curfews, littering, and wearing
“gang clothing.”
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Author Biographies
Kevin F. Steinmetz is an assistant professor in the
Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social
Work at Kansas State University.
Brian P. Schaefer is an assistant professor in the
Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at
Indiana State University.
Howard Henderson is a professor and the graduate program director in the Department of the Administration of
Justice at Texas Southern University.

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