Policing Black Bodies: A tool for extracting and exploiting free labor

The system of chattel slavery that enslaved millions and millions of people of African descent for the first 250 years of United States history is the story of policing Black bodies.

The very definition of people of African descent as “chattel” sets the system of slavery in the United States apart from all other forms of slavery past or present and it sets the table for race relations today and particularly the story of policing Black bodies.  By defining enslaved Africans brought to the United States as chattel, in the same category as life stock, meant that human beings could be (and were) bought and sold often on an auction block, routinely ripping apart families. The status of a chattel slave, unlike any other category of slave past or present, meant that the status was biological and thus the status could not be shed—one could not buy or work one’s way out of slavery—and the status was inherited.  In 1787, the Constitutional Congress of the newly forming United States enacted the 3/5th compromise which dictated that enslaved people would be counted as 3/5th of a human.  The 3/5ths Compromise along with the definition of enslaved people of African descent as chattel provided the ideological justification for the ultimate in policing of Black bodies, both literally and symbolically.

Slave owners employed policing tactics in order to restrict the movement of their property, enslaved men and women, including when they attempted to run away. But they also controlled literally every aspect of the enslaved body, deciding what work the enslaved person would do, what the enslaved person would eat, and how much, even if and when the enslaved girl or woman would have a child, which was accomplished both by raping enslaved women and by forcing enslaved men and women to engage in sexual intercourse for the singular purpose of increasing property for the slave owners at the exclusion of the enslaved people’s “right” to enjoy raising a family.

David Blackmon, author of Slavery by Another Name, traces the development of a set of policies and practices that allowed the southern plantation economy to continue on the backs of exploited, often “free” Black labor.  In an interview with Bill Moyers he notes: “…that the southern economy, and in a way, the American economy, was addicted to slavery, was addicted to forced labor. And the South could not resurrect itself…” Thus, after the formal end of slavery in 1865, Black Codes were quickly put into place to restrict the movement of the newly freed, formerly enslaved people.  Blacks were subjected, for example, to curfews and could be arrested for merely hanging out and enjoying their freedom or “loitering.”  And, whereas Black Codes became a tool for the literal policing of Black bodies, Jim Crow segregation, which lasted another hundred years after the formal end of slavery, was a set of tools and strategies coordinated to provide both literal and symbolic policing of Black bodies; controlling where Blacks could live, which schools they could attend, and even the days of the week they were allowed to swim in the community pool, if they were allowed to swim at all.  The maintenance of Nation’s integrity requires constant vigilance.

In his 1997 book Worse than Slavery, David Oshinsky writes about the origins of “plantation prisons” that popped up across the deep south shortly after the Civil War, including Angola in Louisiana and Parchman in Mississippi.  Prisons like Angola and Parchman were constructed explicitly to continue to enslave Blacks and exploit their labor in a deeply rooted agricultural economy.  Oshinsky notes that there were laws that allowed the police to arrest Black men for status offenses, like loitering, and incarcerate them, specifically at plantation prisons, during planting and harvesting seasons when the demand for this “free” Black labor increased dramatically.  These same men were released, conveniently, after the planting or harvesting seasons ended, their labor extracted at no cost, because the state no longer wanted to pay to house and feed them.

Prisons didn’t only make money by extracting the “free labor” of incarcerated men, they also “loaned out” inmates to local businesses for a fee, a system referred to convict leasing.   Inmates might be loaned out for manual labor in local business, or, they might be sent to forced labor camps or sentenced to chain gangs where they were forced to do dangerous, highly intensive physical labor under conditions similar to the work camps we typically associate with Russia and China.  There were forced labor camps in places like rural Georgia, where incarcerated Blacks worked in turpentine camps and lumber camps where they were chained to machines, whipped and provided meager rations, just like they had been on the plantations of the antebellum South. In North Carolina, inmates were forced in chain gangs to build roads. They were “housed” in train cars that were used to transport livestock and circus animals, they had limited toileting and were fed meager rations.

At the end of the Civil War and at the time of the Emancipation Proclamation, most Blacks in the United States lived in the south, it’s economy, as noted by Blackmon, deeply embedded in agriculture.  As a result, most Blacks who were emancipated continued to farm, often as sharecroppers on the same plantations where they had been enslaved.  Not eager to give over even a fraction of their wealth to freed Blacks nor pay them fairly for their labor, many White plantation owners set up complex systems, including sharecropping loans and company stores that quickly led to freed Blacks being deeply indebted to the plantation owner.  The debt peonage system allowed the police to arrest Blacks who were over a certain debt limit and return them to the plantation owner where they were enslaved and required to work until the point at which their debt was paid off.  As Blackmon argues, less than a generation after Emancipation, Blacks in the south were once again engaged in slave labor.  And, though all of this may seem like ancient history, plantation prisons like Parchman continue to rely on incarcerated labor to produce all of the food consumed by the inmates.  Parchman also continues to participate in the convict lease system.  A walk or drive through the downtown of many Delta towns will reveal inmates from Parchman cutting grass for municipalities or cleaning the windows of local businesses.  All of this begs the question of whether Blacks have been truly emancipated  more than 150 years after the official end of slavery.

Though some readers might take offense to the comparison between slavery and the planation prison system, the thirteenth amendment to the Constitution of the United States that “freed the slaves” retained a clause that allowed for the confinement and exploitation of incarcerated people.  It reads, in part

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

Today, as we argue strongly in this book, the labor of inmates continues to be exploited vis-a-vis the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC), a system in which inmates are engaged in every kind of labor from agricultural to factory work to high end electronics and computer monitoring, for which they receive very little compensation. The profits of their labor are reaped by states and private, multinational corporations.

To Read More, Policing Black Bodies: How Black Lives are Surveilled and How to Work for Change is available at Amazon.

Black Athletes Protest Movements

Earl Smith, PhD               Angela J. Hattery, PhD


On June 4, 1967 at 105-15 Euclid Ave. in Cleveland,  Jim Brown, Ali, Lou Alcindor (Kareem Abdul Jabbar) and other prominent Black athletes held their “summit” on Black athlete activism.  The image of the summit is iconic, even appearing in the sports and culture exhibit in the new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC.

This social movement was further extended into international waters when both John Carlos and Tommie Smith, US track sprinters, demonstrated at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City (Zirin and Carlos 2013).  They were dismissed from the games, sent back to the United States but were able to keep the medals they had won, though less well known is the fact that for years they were blackballed from earning a decent living.

As we leave 2017, I’m reflecting on the relatively new social movement for social justice by athletes, most often associated with Colin Kaepernick, but including LeBron James and the then Miami Heat who wore hoodies onto the court in 2012 in protest to the killing of Trayvon Martin or, again, LeBron James and the Cleveland Caveliers donning sweats during pre-game warm-ups that said “I can’t Breathe” protesting the murder of Eric Garner.  And, during 2016 and 2017, Colin Kaepernick and a host of NFL players taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem to draw attention to the social injustices experienced by the Black community.

Colin Kaepernick on September 1, 2016 took a knee, refusing to stand during the National Anthem, he was later joined by teammate Eric Reed producing this photo that bought many in the US and around the world, to take notice of the issues of police brutality against Black people.


Around the time of this protest Kaepernick delivered a statement to the NFL media saying, in part:


“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”


We ask, why now?  Why these two time periods?  What do they have in common?

In 1968 protests were in part a reaction to murder of Rev., Dr., Martin Luther King Jr., and the protests today are –in part– a reaction to the election of Donald J. trump as the 45th President of the United States.

What is different about 2017 compared to 1968?  Among other things, the 1960s can only be characterized as an era of protest: protest against the Vietnam War, marches for civil rights, and the beginning of the women’s rights movement.  Athletes were, in part, just doing what thousands of other people were doing, albeit on a different stage.

So, why are the athlete protests in 2016 and 2017 so controversial even though they are minuscule in comparison to not only the famous Black Athlete Summit in 1967, but also the Civil Rights marches (Selma: Edmund Pettus Bridge ).

Perhaps the difference is the overall lack of a culture of social protest in the second decade of the aughts.  There is the Black Lives Matter  Movement (BLM), and in January 2017 the Women’s March protesting the election of Donald Trump, but overall, this decade is not one of widespread social activism. Which makes Colin Kaepernick’s taking a knee that much more noticeable in the absence of other protests.

Perhaps the difference is that today’s athletes have more to lose?  Jim Brown earned a paycheck similar to the average working American man, LeBron James earns more every single day than the average American will earn in a lifetime. On the other hand everyone in the 1960s had a lot to lose as well. In that way, athletes were just like regular people…an era that has long since passed us by.

Is it that people are less hopeful now? After 8 years of Barack Obama’s presidency in which people had much hope (Coates 2017), and a year into the Trump presidency, when many are skeptical that America will ever be great again, perhaps the risk of protest seems not worth the possible price?

As Chris Hayes (Hayes 2013) notes, income inequality is so much worse than it has been in a century and most people are trying just to get ahead, not to rock the boat.

As “arm-chair sociologists” W.E.B. Du Bois (cited in Green and Smith 1983) might argue if these athletes, especially those in the National Football League (NFL), really, really want to make some noise via protest actions, they would strike their regular season games if only for a game or two.

This won’t happen.

So why is it that college athletes, pro athletes of color and especially Black athletes are not willing to take a stand similar to that of Colin Kaepernick?  Despite the publicity Kaepernick received, very few other athletes joined the protest.

My take on it all is that the athletes today are afraid of what they might lose.  Student-athletes in the two “money making” sports of football and basketball can’t afford to lose scholarships, many of which are valued at around $50 to $60 thousand a year, per athlete.

The same for pro athletes who make approximately $450 thousand to 27mil a year in football and $490 thousand to millions and millions a year in basketball, topping out at the astronomical salary of $34 million a year for Steph Curry.

Regardless of which side of the scale you are on this is a lot of money that most Americans will not make across the life cycle. (the average American earns approximately $1,400,000 in their lifetime).

So if we are looking for easy, straightforward explanations for why the athlete protest movement is stalled, it is this: in deep contrast to the 1960s in which the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act were passed, in the aftermath of the eight years of the Obama Presidency and in the realities of the Trump Presidency, there is too much to lose in an environment in which there seems to be little hope for any meaningful gain.

In 1968 Black people, and Black athletes had everything to gain, including equal opportunities.  In 2017, under the myth of a post-racial society, Black athletes seemingly have everything to lose…well at least the almighty dollar.



Coates, ta -Nehisi. 2017. We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy. New York: Random House.


Edwards, Harry. 2017. Revolt of the Black Athlete. University of Illinois Press; Anniversary edition. Champaign, Illinois.


Green, Dan and Earl Smith. 1983.  “W.E.B. DuBois and the Concepts of Race and Class” Phylon, Vol. 44, No. 4 (4th Qtr., 1983), pp. 262-272.


Hayes, Chris. 2013. Twilight of the Elites. New York: Broadway Books.


Moore, Louis. 2017. We Will Win the Day: The Civil Rights Movement, the Black Athlete, and the Quest for Equality. New York: Praeger.


Reid, Eric. 2017. “Why Colin Kaepernick and I Decided to Take a Knee.” New York Times, September 25th –  http://nyti.ms/2q1fXfE      


Smith, Earl. 2014. Race, Sport and the American Dream. 3rd Edition. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press.


Smith, Earl and Dan Green, Dan and Earl Smith. 1983. “W.E.B. DuBois and the Concepts of Race and Class.” Phylon Vol. 44, No. 4:262-272.


Zirin, Dave and John Carlos. 2013. The John Carlos Story: The Sports Moment that Changed the World. New York: Haymarket Books.



Orenthal James Simpson (OJ): Cultural Hero Redux

by Earl Smith, PhD and Angela J. Hattery, PhD


He deceived us once.  Will he do it again?

Orenthal James “O. J. ” Simpson, nicknamed “the Juice” is a former NCAA Collegiate football hero –having won the coveted Heisman Trophy—as well as a National Football League star running back. After football, he became a broadcaster, actor, advertising spokesman, and then a convicted armed robber and kidnapper having spent a decade in a Nevada prison.

On July 20, 2017, the Nevada Parole Board granted OJ parole from a 9 to 33 year sentence he has been serving for convictions of armed robbery and kidnapping.

Using our research on Black men and mass incarceration as well as the (lack) of opportunities for Black men exiting prison with a felony record, we explore what went wrong and what didn’t in the privileged life of Simpson such that he was tried and acquitted of the charge of homicide and later convicted of armed robbery.   We discuss the life men like OJ face as convicted felons and speculate about the ways his privilege will and will not protect him as he re-enters the free world.

We have to agree with our colleague Dr. Harry Edwards when he says that the new world OJ is re-entering –unlike the world he left when he was incarcerated nine years ago—will trip him up and we can predict that he will be in trouble within a year after his release.

Whether you care about OJ or not, what is fascinating from a researchers perspective is that long after 1994 when he was on trial for the double murder of his then X-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman, OJ has been a figure of some celebrity in American society. After the trial for which he was acquitted he quickly became a pariah across America split along racial lines.

It can be argued that Blacks rooted for the acquittal and whites did not.  (Were Blacks rooting for OJ because he was OJ or, just as important, were they just star struck and rooting for a TV celebrity)?

But it was made clear from the start of the hearing that the 1994 trial and decision were not a part of the July 2017 parole hearing at the Lovelock Correctional Center in Lovelock, Nevada.

(It has to be mentioned here that when judge Jackie Glass issued a sentence of 33 years for “kidnapping and armed robbery” the consensus was that this was in reality a “payback” sentence for Simpson walking free from the murder trial. In essence judge Jackie Glass issued Simpson a life sentence).

Excessive.  As stated above, whether you support OJ or not, the nine years served turns out to be overly harsh given that OJ did not arm himself when he went to that Las Vegas hotel room to get back his memorabilia.

So, where are we now?

OJ Simpson, barring an infractions, will walk out of prison on October 1, 2017 a convicted felon who has to now deal with parole officers and the rules of the Nevada parole system. At 70 plus years of age, with probably few employment options, OJ had better take his $5 million in a private pension; his NFL pension estimated at $25,000 per month or $300,000 annually. Add in his Social Security benefit that he will access for the first time since going to prison which will pay him $3,538 per month, or $42,000 annually. Finally, for all those goofy movies OJ was in he has a Screen Actors Guild pension worth an undisclosed amount.  This money will allow OJ to live a comfortable post prison life unlike MOST Black men accessing re-entry.

OJ, “the Juice”, is a wealthy man. And, having access to this type of money he should–as we were previously saying above–move on with his life, re-connect with all of his kids and family.  Enjoy retirement.

The odds of this happening are slim to none.  The type of celebrity life OJ lived was expansive–see, especially, the documentary O.J.: Made in Americaand at his age why stop now.  Remember, it has been reported that OJ had a less than harsh life while locked up in Lovelock.

In conclusion we, like so many others, will be listening and watching once OJ is set free on or about October 1, 2017.



Morrison, Toni and Claudia Lacour. 1997. Birth of a Nation Hood: Gaze, Script, and Spectacle in the O. J. Simpson Case. NY: Pantheon Books.

Tobin, Jeffrey.  2015.  The Run of His Life: The People v. O.J. Simpson. NY: Random House.


See more of our work:

Women, Work and Family http://bit.ly/1aEKWPI

Race, Sport and the American Dream  http://amzn.to/1gaOJrY

The Social Dynamics of Family Violence (2nd edition)   http://amzn.to/2iOIoGy

African American Families Today: Myths and Realities  http://amzn.to/145G1Tp

Prisoner Reentry and Social Capital   http://amzn.to/15xuWvt

Interracial Intimacies: An Examination of Powerful Men and Their Relationships across the Color Line   http://amzn.to/1b8Ga9L

A Formula for Eradicating Racism: Debunking White Supremacy    http://amzn.to/1jv7Z5y

Policing Black Bodies: How Black Lives are Surveilled and How to Work for Change  http://amzn.to/2fr2E0t

Male Athletes and Sexual Violence Against Women

Ray Rice poster athlete for violence against women.

by Earl Smith and Angela J. Hattery

Boys Behaving Badly? Not really.

They are simply doing what is accepted in their sport culture.

Since the late 1990s scholars have been chronicling the growing incidences of male athletes–college and professional–, across almost all sports where the common denominator is violence against women.

From Tampa Bay Rays catcher Derek Norris to the “Yankee Clipper”Joe DiMaggio who beat and abused his wife Marilyn Monroe to UFC fighter Thiago Silva to professional boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., to professional football star O.J. Simpson who severely beat his wife Nicole Brown Simpson to pro football player Greg Hardy to Sean Burke  NHL hockey player beat his wife and many, many more.

What this ip of the iceberg list shows is that many men who hone their skills in perfecting some sport are also prone to violence off their playing field.

Our analysis of this in several publications is that sport, many of which are violent (even NASCAR), produces a physical action embedded within a culture of violence that deeply impacts the participants.   That is to suggest that the male athletes that perpetrate violence against women have poo coping skills and do not possess the tools necessary for deescalating violence situations. Immediately they revert to physical violence.

It behooves intercollegiate athletics and professional sports organizations to incorporate into their programs (and not just bring in someone to give a speech) violence prevention training for their athletes.



Smith, Earl. 2014. Race, Sport and the American Dream. Carolina Academic Press.

Hattery, Angela J. 2010. Intimate Partner violence. Rowman & Littlefield.

White people have an addiction problem, Black people have a crime problem

Dozens of studies conducted over the last several decades have demonstrated unequivocally that drug use rates are remarkably consistent across racial groups.  In other words, Blacks and whites use drugs at the same rates.


What differs is the kinds of the drugs they use and the public reaction to this drug use.


There is no scientific evidence to support the claim that crack is more dangerous than opioids, as both drugs are addictive, both can lead to overdose deaths, and both can lead to an increase in crimes that addicts commit to support their habits.  And babies are born addicted to crack and opioids, the only difference is their mother’s drug of choice.


And, yet, the community response, in hospitals and police departments around the country, and even in the hall of congress is decidedly different.  White people have an addiction problem and Black people have a crime problem.


Congress’s approach to the crack epidemic was to dump hundreds of millions of dollars into policing, and as a result, the incarcerated population in the United States tripled between 1986 and 2000 and the number of people incarcerated on drug charges increased by a massive 8 times.  This policing approach extended to mothers addicted to crack as well.


In her influential book, killing the black body, Dorothy Roberts argues persuasively that crack became an easy target for the War on Drugs.  And, low-income Black women became the “poster child” providing a powerful and visual rationale for this war. Chief among their major offenses was delivering babies addicted to crack.  “Crack babies” quickly became of primary concern to policy makers, not necessarily because they were addicted to crack per-se, but because of the perceived, but not necessarily substantiated claim  of the  burden they would place on society.  A burden that could have been avoided had their mothers simply behaved responsibly, at least according to the instigators of the “War on Drugs,” including Presidents Nixon and Reagan.   And, thus began the policy of criminalizing pregnancy.  Black women who delivered babies with even a trace of crack in their system were sent to prison, convicted of child endangerment, for long sentences.


In contrast, Congress’s approach to the opioid epidemic, which differs only from the crack epidemic in that the typical user has a lighter complexion and lives in suburban or rural area, has been to declare that the primary problem is not crime but addiction.  And, rather than sending hundreds of millions of dollars to police departments, the monies are diverted to hospitals that can provide treatment for addicts and the babies they deliver. Some money is even given over for research.

The new US Senate -healthcare bill under consideration has a line item for opioids with a dollar figure at $45 billion for opioid addiction treatment. This package of money is headed to states like Ohio (Ohio’s Montgomery County is now the per-capita leader in overdose deaths) and Pennsylvania, especially the rural areas where the population is mainly white.

According to sources reporting to the New York Times, most of the money would go to addiction treatment, but some would be used to fund research into better treatments for pain and addiction.


According the New York Times, doctors are now “rethinking” their approach to treating babies born addicted to opioids.  They have found, not surprisingly, that when babies are separated from their mothers, they require more significant treatment, often low doses of morphine, and much longer stays in neo-natal ICUs.  In contrast, some hospitals in rural Kentucky have experimented with allowing mothers to “room in” with their newborns and not surprisingly, the babies, in the supportive arms of their often still addicted mother, respond more quickly, few require morphine treatment, and they go home, on average, 3 weeks earlier.

And, this is fantastic.

But it’s quite a contrast to the experience of 28 year-old Cornelia Whitner, as detailed in Dorothy Roberts book, who in February 1992 gave birth to a healthy baby.  Upon conducting a urine test on the baby, traces of crack were discovered.  The baby was healthy and in her court hearing Whitner begged to be sentenced to a residential treatment program in order to address her addiction and become a good parent.  The Judge responded “I think I’ll just let her to go to jail.’ He sentenced her to a startling 8 year sentence.

Finally, when we look at the decades’ comparisons between the approach to Black addicts and the 2015-2016-2017 approach to white addicts we see an alarming pattern: treat whites as in need of treatment and rehabilitation and treat Blacks as criminals.

Perhaps as many as a half a million Black people are incarcerated for low-level drug offenses, they are addicts, while the same addiction among whites has police departments welcoming them into local precincts to turn over their drugs and be transported safely, without handcuffs or criminal records, to local hospitals specializing in the latest rehabilitation techniques.

When, we ask, will Black drug use be treated as an addiction and not a crime?  When will we stop ripping Black babies out of their mothers arms and sending the mothers to prison and the babies to foster care?  When we will we treat addiction equally regardless of the complexion of the user?

The War on Drugs in Black and White.

To read more: see our upcoming book, Policing Black Bodies!


Prisoners are Smart: But Not Smart Enough to Stay Out of Prison

Everyone knows that prisoners are smart. What everyone does not know is that they are not smart enough to remain free once released

With approximately 2.3 million in American jails and prisons –and almost all of them returning home at some point in time–and with the policies that shape American arrest and penal philosophy forever changing (Jeff Sessions op-ed) — re-entry norms must change.


Recidivism in Focus:

What does all this have to do with SMART PRISONERS?


The men and women we gawk over for their ingenuity while “inside” (escape from South Carolina prison using a cell phone & drone!) have nothing to offer on the “outside.”

With rehabilitation all but wiped from state and federal prisons those currently incarcerated just do their time. Even those inmates “lucky” enough to be working for any of the 100 or so companies that exploit their labor at .28 to .38 or .50 cents per hour (Paul, a prisoner in upstate New York told us he has to work three hours to pay for a bottle of water. The water in his cell is not drinkable!) they, too, just do their time only in a different setting.  These same companies that they work for inside will not hire these prisoners when they are released:


Victoria Secret




Honda car parts

JC Penny


Pruno (wine)

The point of the matter is that there are no (or few) real transferable skills (from inside to outside) that make re-entry seamless.  Men and women still struggle –as we noted in our 2010 book entitled PRISONER REENTRY AND SOCIAL CAPITAL: The Long Road to Reintegration.  These X-prisoners struggle on a daily basis to find a way to make the adjustment from incarceration to living freely in society.

To conclude, the point of  this blog was to point out that the little things (or big0 that prisoners do inside that attracts our attention and this to proffer the label of “brilliant” have little need on the outside and, therefore, many cannot make the adjustments needed for a happy, successful post-prison release life.


**For more of our work goto: http://www.smithandhattery.com



There is an “ordinariness” to the police murders of Black men

                  By Earl Smith, PhD and Angela J. Hattery, PhD


Philando Castile

Since August 26, 2016 when Colin  Kaepernick (who at that time was a San Francisco 49er quarterback) started taking a knee during the National Anthem, police have killed approximately more than 780 people.  Approximately 193 of those killed have been Black.

And, while the numbers may not be complete, they alone do not tell the whole story.  Here we talk about the “ordinariness” of these killings especially those that involve Black men like Philando Castile in Minnesota.  Black men have been in America since the founding of the Nation State. Some are fathers; some are professionals such as lawyers, Wall Street bankers; some are incarcerated and some play NCAA and NFL football. What binds all these men together is that across all demographics that defines them – members of these categories have been killed by the police.

Just recently (June 14, 2017) officer Jeronimo Yanezthe the Minnesota police officer who killed Mr., Castile was acquitted by a jury on all counts. While love ones and others were looking for a conviction the outcome was not surprising.  In our data we looked at the 10 highest profile killing of unarmed Black men killed by police officers and all of them–from Trevyon Martin to Michael Brown to Sean Bell to Amadou Diallo–the officers were not charged.

Looking carefully at the prior activities of some of these men we learn that they were involved in simple, ordinary activities just prior to their deaths. In the case of Mr. Castile he was out with his girlfriend, her 4-yesr old daughter shopping for groceries.        The video of the death was widely circulated first on FACEBOOK then the police officially released it June 20, 2017.

The “ordinariness” of police killings of Black men does not stop unfortunately with Mr. Castile.  Young Tamir Rice was killed in a Cleveland playground November 22, 2014.  He was twelve years old.  And, like most pre-teens he was playing some type of boy-game with a toy gun.

These ordinary activities that lead to premature deaths are incredible for their ordinariness!  White males do not face death after completing ordinary activities.

Several commentaries have railed about the silence of the National Rifle Association (NRA) on the killing of Mr. castile who had a legal license to carry a concealed handgun.  Who, even telling officer Yanezthe that he had a gun on him was killed anyway reaching for his wallet.

This violence in not new.  Under JIM CROW (the system of law commonoly know as de jure segregation and the illegal practice known as de facto segregation both mandated the segregation of public schools, public places, and public transportation, housing and the segregation of restrooms, restaurants, and drinking fountains for whites and Blacks) often resulting in violence to maintain separateness between whites and Blacks.  The practices were heavily policed.

In all of the talk about “Constitutional Rights” the NRA over the years–and especially after the Columbine school killing (1999) it maintained that Americans have 2nd Amendment rights to arm themselves.  The NRA fights to make this message clear at every turn. In commentaries after the Castile murder it is being said that this right does not extend to Black people.  That is, had Castile been white he would have never been shot.  This sentiment was strongly echoed by

“an appalled Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton who said that police wouldn’t have shot and killed Philando Castile if he’d been white and called for justice with the greatest sense of time urgency.”  

Let us not fool ourselves, with all the police killings of Black unarmed men these murders are not random.  There is something going on in 21st Century America that renders ordinary Black lives less than the lives of other racial/ethnic American citizens.

For Black men it is, to be sure, the “ordinariness.”


To read more of our work, go to:

In Black & White: The Violent Sexual Predator Crossing the Colorline

Angela J.Hattery, PhD & Earl Smith, PhD (2017)



We have a theory.  Serial sexual male predators like Bill Cosby (1) Bill O’Reilly (2) and Darren Sharper (3) play out their violent fantasies often going after innocent women of a race different from theirs.  This predatory sexual violence is not about challenging norms of interracial relationships, it is about power.


Very few things in the United States are more heavily and strictly policed than the relationship colorline, and specifically the taboo on intimate relationships between Blacks and Whites.  Fifty years after the famous Loving v. Virginia case that declared anit-miscegenation laws unconstitutional, clearing the way for Blacks and Whites to legally marry, only 9% of marriages in the United States in 2010 involved a Black and a White partner, and fewer than 1% of Whites were married to a Black spouse (Smith and Hattery 2013).


When it comes to sexual violence, less than 10% of all rapes are intraracial.


It’s interesting then, that despite the fact that the relationship color line is heavily policed and interracial sexual violence is very uncommon, a significant number of the cases of high profile cases of serial (more than one victim) interracial sexual violence have been broadcast and discussed on our television screens and through other news outlets.


How can we make sense of this?


Intersectional theory requires us to look at phenomenon critically and come to conclusions only after we have examined various iterations of that phenomenon.  For example, how is the gendered wage gap also shaped by race?


When interracial sexual violence occurs, what is the context?  Who is doing the perpetrating?  Does it look the same if the rapist is Black or White?


Cases like those of Darren Sharper, Bill Cosby and Bill O’Reilly reveal to us the strength of the sexual stereotypes about interracial sex.  For example, in our work (2 books on interracial relations (Smith and Hattery 2013; Smith and Hattery 2009; two papers on athlete’s violence against women (Smith 2010); (Hattery 2010) and especially in our work “Cultural Contradictions in the South” (2010) we demonstrate explicitly that predatory men–black and white–are mesmerized with “the other.” (6)


What intersectional theory allows us to do is complicate the racial and gender contours of interracial sexual violence.


White men have been sexually violating Black women’s bodies since the first slaves arrived on American soil after having been kidnapped from Africa.  Historically we have to look no further than Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, Third President of the United States, a known predator of his Black female slaves.  Was the initial encounter between Jefferson and Sally Heming rape?  (3)


How can a White man who believes that Black people are inferior, as Jefferson did, or as Bill O’Reilly might, sexually violate Black women’s bodies?  The answer is simple: because sexual violence is not about relationship built on love and respect. No!  It is violence perpetrated against the objectified female body.  In the O’Reilly’s case, it seems any woman’s body would do.  A “pussy” is a “pussy.”  O’Reilly is a serial sexual harasser, with at least a dozen victims.


In contrast, as a result of the lynching’s of tens of thousands of Black men for the mere accusation, almost always false, of raping a White women, very few Black men have any sexual relationship with White women, consensual or violent (Blackmon 2009).  The average Black man who rapes a White woman serves decades in prison for his crime.  In fact, many Black men have served decades in prison after being wrongly convicted of raping a White women .


That being said, intersectional theory allows us to explore what appears to be an exception to the rule of gender and race hierarchy.  Black men who have power—as athletes and entertainers—and who engage in sexual violence against White women are almost never held accountable.


Bill Cosby drugged and raped more than 50 women.  The majority of whom are White.

Darren Sharper (4), who was finally convicted of 16 rapes, is a serial rapist whose many victims aren’t just similar in terms of their allegations—they are also similar in appearance: white women, most of whom had long blonde hair.


Where as White men sexually violate Black women’s bodies because they can, under the rules of patriarchy and racial domination, some Black men may engage in sexual violence against White women because in this inverted race and gender hierarchy they, too, have more power.  And, the sexual violence may in fact be perpetrated precisely because it threatens the power of White men.  In these cases, White women’s bodies are selected by the serial abuser because their bodies are the object that allows Black men to express their power.


There is no better case than that of the violent thuggery of Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver is well known. (5)  He spells this all out in his book Soul On Ice (1968) telling us that his victims were White women –although he practiced his rapes on Black women first before crossing the tracks to White neighborhoods–and infamously said he was getting back at the “man” by raping his women.


Only when we examine the sexual violence perpetrated by men who at first glance seem as diverse as Bill O’Reilly, Darren Sharper and Bill Cosby through the lens of intersectional theory, with a focus on the intricacies of race and gender hierarchies, can we see that not all serial predatory sexual violence across the color line is the same.  But, one thing is always the same: it is always about POWER and it is always about treating women’s bodies, regardless of their race, as sexual objects on which to demonstrate masculine power.

Postscript: On June 20, 2017 Judge Steven T. O’Neill declared a mistrial.


To see more of Angela J. Hattery and Earl Smith work go to:  http://www.smithandhattery.com



Further Reading

  1. com Reporter, “Shattered! Bill Cosby’s legacy on The Cosby Show questioned by controversial Ebony Magazine cover.” 17 October 2015     http://dailym.ai/2pOGvwG


  1. Steel, Emily and Michael Schmidt. 2017. “Bill O’Reilly Is Forced Out at Fox News”, April 19, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/19/business/media/bill-oreilly-fox-news-allegations.html


May, Charlie. 2017. “From ‘hot chocolate’ to triumphant: Woman whose account may have been final straw for Bill O’Reilly speaks out.” Salon   http://bit.ly/2owm4U1


3, Wiencek, Henry. “The Dark Side of Thomas Jefferson.”




  1. Freeman, Mike. 2014. “Who Is Darren Sharper? Date-Rape Allegations Raise Serious

Questions.” Bleacher Report,   http://ble.ac/2pnWZyT


  1. CreWisdom, “Being Anti-Black woman is NOT new. Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver admits to hating and raping Black women.”   CreWisdomDecember 7, 2015



  1. Halsell, Grace. 1999. Soul Sister. Crossroads International Publishing.


  1. Smith, Earl and Hattery, Angela. 2013. Interracial Relationships in the 21st Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press.


  1. Smith, Earl (ed). 2010. “Violence in Sportsworld.” Journal for the Study of Sports and Athletes in Education, 4(2):101-108.


  1. Hattery, Angela. 2010. “SportsWorld as a site of violence against women.” Journal for the Study of Sports and Athletes in Education, 4(2):109-122.


  1. Smith, Earl and Angela J. Hattery. (2010). “Cultural Contradictions in the South.” Mississippi Quarterly Vol 63 (2): 145-166.    http://bit.ly/1mwQu34


  1. Blackmon, Douglas. 2009. Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II. New York: Anchor; Reprint edition.




I recently participated in a program, Dear World, in which we were asked to identify a message that we wanted to share with the world and write it on our bodies to be photographed.


I had arrived at the event planning to use black marker to write “Fight for Justice” on my arms.  But, the organizers dissuaded us from using pat phrases from a Hallmark card like “Be the Change” or “Value Diversity!” Rather we should choose words and phrases that connected to the moment one realized the concept or word.


Immediately my mind was flooded with many messages, but the one recurring theme always came back to moments, and there have been many, including the recent illness and death of my mom, that were about feeling overwhelmed, about not being able to carry everything I was asked to.  To capacity.


I often talk to women who are overwhelmed, who are “at capacity,” who like Shel Silversteins’
“Giving Tree” are nothing more than some crumpled roots underground, literally stripped, with nothing left to give.


At the event itself, without disclosing my own word, several women shared their words or phrases: “sucked dry,” “never good enough.”  Earlier in the day, a woman with whom I work broke down in tears in the restroom.  When I asked her what was wrong, she said she was overwhelmed.


Ok, so it’s not just me.  This got me thinking about the gendered nature of work, in the workplace, at home, in our communities, and especially the emotional labor that many women perform as they care for spouses, children and aging parents.


In my field of higher education, women advise the majority of students, we do the majority of committee and other service work, all on top of having to perform twice as well in teaching and research in order to be awarded tenure and to be promoted.


At home, though there have been changes over the years, even when they work for pay outside of the home, women do more housework and significantly more child care than their male partners.



Often not long after women enter the empty nest stage, they begin caring for their aging parents.  According to research done by Family Caregiver Alliance  66% of family members caring for family members are women.


No wonder my colleagues and friends are breaking down in the bathroom or choosing phrases like “sucked dry” to describe their experiences.


We are often simply tapped out.  At or over CAPACITY.


In my household my spouse and I share the work, including many of the time intensive tasks like cooking.  My spouse cooks way more than half of all our meals, including preparing breakfast and lunch for me to take to work every day!


But, even when tasks are shared, women, including me, do much more of the emotion work.  Since my mom has passed, my dad calls me sometimes 6 or 7 times a day just to say hi, or to share a memory of my mom.  And, as much as I love these calls and I’m happy to support my dad through such a difficult time, sometimes these calls leave me feeling beyond my capacity.  Some nights I fall asleep praying the phone won’t ring at least until the next morning. Or sometimes I wish my brother would take a call.  Just one.


When I get up, sometimes refreshed and sometimes not so much, I prepare myself to answer his phone calls again, because I know I have to, who else, including my brother, is going to answer the phone?


This is another common theme that my women friends and I often discuss…no matter how tired we are, how far we are above our capacity, our children, our parents, our spouses, our friends, our colleagues and our communities depend on us.  So, each day we must get up and keep doing the work, both physical and emotional that sustains them and allows them to thrive.


And, for many of us, it is other women who help when we simply can’t carry the load anymore.  We are quick to give a sister a hug, send a supportive text, surprise each other with a cup of tea, or even drop off a meal or drive carpool so that our sister can catch a break.  And, for this I am so grateful to be a woman.  To know I can count on my sisters.


But, my question is, when will men pick up the load?


It is said that women hold up half the sky….I’d argue that in fact we hold up way more than half.


We are persistent and resilient and committed and competent.  But we are also tired.  We need our partners, sons, fathers, and male-identified allies to lend a hand with the heavy lifting.  For when they do, not only will women be less tired, but we’ll be even better partners, parents and colleagues! We’ll be better able to achieve our goals and to support our families and communities in reaching theirs.


To read more follow me @AngelaHattery, on FB: SmithandHattery and on our website: smithandhattery.com