The policing and criminalization of Black men in America has several origins: the prison industrial complex, socially sanctioned lynching, stop and frisk, and zero tolerance, as Keon L. Gilbert and Rashawn Ray point out in their recent article in Journal of Urban Health. This graphic illustrates some of the key ideas in their research.
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Gilbert and Ray use a framework they refer to as Public Health Critical Race Praxis (PHCRP) to question how justifiable homicides affect Black men continue to occur with such alarming frequency. These researchers use PHCRP to argue that the excessive use of force applied to Black men during encounters with law enforcement should be seen as a public health challenge. The PHCRP framework advocates for health equity with theories and methods drawn from critical race and public health scholarship. PHCRP has several principles based on its four focal areas:
- Contemporary patterns of racial relations
- Knowledge production
- Conceptualization and measurement
The authors question this legacy of policing in three substantial ways. First, racial stratification leads to unequal life chances due to the way current research criminalizes Black men of all ages. Second, criminalization of their race and gender limits health identity formation for Black men. Lastly, prejudice and racism lead to a negative experience for Black men within the criminal justice system.
PHCRP also provides principles that confirm inform policy aimed at correcting this legacy of policing in order to achieve health equity for Black men. This includes:
- The collection of data on death by legal intervention
- The repealing of stop and frisk laws nationwide
- The implementation of Community Review Boards
- The establishment of accessible mental and preventive health services
Thus, Gilbert and Ray use PHCRP to demonstrate how critical race theory offers solutions to build more equitable relations between law enforcement and the communities they serve. Find more research on race and policing here.
~ Melissa Brown is a PhD Candidate in Sociology at the University of Maryland and social media manager for the Critical Race Initiative.