The Racial Politics of Protection: A Critical Race Examination of Police Militarization

The Racial Politics of Protection: A Critical Race Examination of Police Militarization

Across the country, police departments are using aggressive, military-style tactics and weapons to enforce the law. More recently, the state of police militarization displayed in cities like Ferguson and Baltimore raises deep questions about the ethics of paramilitary policing and its consequences for minority citizenship and inclusion. This Note examines police militarization as the result of concerted political decisions that often trade on racial fear and anxiety. Beginning in the Reconstruction Era and continuing through to racial uprisings in the 1960s, the War on Drugs, and present movements for police accountability and racial justice, this Note argues that police militarization is, and has always been, a deeply racialized issue. Specifically, the trend of police militarization can be viewed as a race-making process—that is, patterns of police militarization have constructed and reinforced race and racial hierarchies in America. The racial politics of protection refers to a process of police militarization that allows the State to construct race by selectively assembling two groupings—those who will be marginalized through heightened surveillance and control and those who will be advantaged by their access to state protection. Ultimately, this Note stresses a more nuanced conversation about the critical intersections of race, militarization, and policing.

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