Women of Color Being Policed

Women of Color Being Policed

Between 2017 and 2018, we conducted 49 interviews with young Black and Latina women in the San Francisco Bay Area about their perceptions and experiences of the police. This study came on the heels of nationwide outrage about countless police killings of Black men, including Philando Castile and Alton Sterling in 2016, as well as one woman, Sandra Bland, whose life was also stricken by the same violence in 2015. Now, sparked by the killing of George Floyd only a few years later, this outrage is reignited. 

To continue our #POCbeingPoliced series and further highlight the long-standing issue of racist police violence directed at women, we present the following video: “Women of Color Being Policed,” which highlights Black women’s voices, specifically.  We humbly thank the women who participated in this study, many of whom courageously shared their experiences with the sole intention of making a difference by amplifying the attention paid to women of color’s experiences with police violence. 

Findings from this study can be found here.

For more research on police violence and police use of force, see our public access bibliography.

For more information about Black women and police violence, see work from the African American Policy Forum’s #SayHerName campaign.

Voices on Police Violence

Voices on Police Violence

In recognition of the fortitude of those on the front lines; in honor of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tony McDade, and so many others whose lives have been cut short by police violence: Over the next few days the Center for Critical Public Health will highlight direct quotes from participants in our studies.

Since 2007, we’ve conducted interviews with people of color whose stories have included countless experiences with racial profiling, unjust stop and search, and police brutality. Though the studies they come from are not all focused on policing nor directly on violence, these quotes highlight how pervasive racist violence is. These participants and their experiences are unique, but the connecting thread of police violence is not.

Neither this violence nor the outrage it justifies are new. Immense gratitude to all of the participants who have generously shared their experiences with us. These voices, past and present, must be heard.

To follow this series, please join us on our Twitter or Facebook feeds. Since this material can be traumatic, we will use the hashtag #POCbeingPoliced consistently throughout the series so you can choose to mute it any time.

Update: Threaded quotes below

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The what is and why bother with a critical public health

The what is and why bother with a critical public health

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The what is and why bother with a critical public health (27)

References & Resources

For more resources, check out our Zotero group list of Readings in Critical Public Health.

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It’s time to rethink public health interventions.

As Judith Green has argued in a different context, it’s time to “move away from tightly monitored outcomes” — like smoking, for our purposes — “and towards processes that will enable rethinking the sites of interventions. If we accept that inequalities in health are caused by inequalities in societies, it is perverse to continue to focus interventions and research at the very groups that have the least power: the poor, the marginal and the vulnerable.”

This might mean focusing on access to health care to equitably provide resources for mental and physical health to reduce the saliency of smoking-for-survival for some people. Or this might mean making less risky nicotine products more accessible to facilitate their use over combustible tobacco products that are far more risky, rather than treating all nicotine and tobacco products similarly. But regardless of the solution, let’s not forget that public health professionals hold power in setting the agenda and that it’s in part the perspectives of the publics that we will ultimately learn from, because those perspectives will help us to challenge the status quo in public health and think critically about what form our agendas should take.

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We need a more critical approach to tobacco research in the United States.

Though our e-cigarette study was just wrapping up when these new laws went into effect, we nevertheless have evidence that raises questions about whether Tobacco 21 laws may have negative consequences for some young smokers who had been relying on e-cigs to transition away from smoking. For example, one 18-year-old participant told us that he could no longer easily access nicotine juice so he had just returned to smoking because cigarettes were easier to get. So if this narrative is illustrative of the experiences of many other young smokers, then our perhaps well-intentioned efforts might be working against their own goals.2

I hope I’ve provided some compelling examples to illustrate the what is and the why bother with a critical public health. We need more research that takes a critical approach to studies of tobacco in the United States. And not only that but it’s also important that this more critically-oriented research is a part of the conversation in developing innovative tobacco prevention and policy efforts that are sensitive to the experiences of people who continue to smoke.

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The what is and why bother with a critical public health (24)

To be fair, given that early initiation of smoking is associated with long-term nicotine dependence and tobacco-related diseases, perhaps it is understandable that many practitioners and researchers have adopted a precautionary approach to tobacco control and prevention, especially for young people, as we see here with California’s new Tobacco 21 laws.

However, these top down social policy approaches are not inclusive of all voices. They often fail to accommodate the perspectives and practices of youth, and by neglecting youth’s perspectives, we may run the risk of falling short of our own goals by perpetuating smoking, not discouraging smoking, among some youth.

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…I think that quote said it all.

As long as tobacco control efforts continue to stigmatize smoking, they may fail to reduce health inequities.

But before moving on, it is worth emphasizing that our participants’ narratives suggest that as long as tobacco prevention and control efforts continue to stigmatize smoking, we may foreclose the possibility of reducing health inequities, and ultimately fail in our attempts to promote and protect the health of queer adults who smoke.

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Substance use is often considered a problem to be solved by the surveillance of youth.

The ways in which young dual users in our study talked about vaping for smoking reduction and/or cessation are pretty straightforward, and perhaps not surprising. In a recent Annual Review of Public Health article, Abrams and his colleagues have even argued, that “smokers’ complete displacement of cigarettes can take time, and a period of dual use is expected and can be acceptable along the path to smoking cessation.” 1 This is precisely in line with how our participants are conceptualizing their own dual use.

Narratives from our study are also particularly compelling against the backdrop of tobacco prevention and policy discourses where typically any nicotine and tobacco use among youth is considered excessive. This may be due to explicit goals in tobacco control to eradicate all nicotine and tobacco use, and see preventing uptake among youth as crucial for achieving the “tobacco endgame.” This is not a particularly unusual strategy when discussing any form of drug use among youth, including alcohol and illicit drugs. It is often considered a social problem to be solved by the surveillance of youth and regulation of the products themselves.

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For many of the young dual users in our study, starting on a path towards smoking cessation by integrating vaping was important because quitting smoking “cold turkey” had not worked for them.

Waffles, a 21-year-old dual user who began smoking at the age of 14, had always associated vaping with “hipster scum,” as she called them, which she described as people from a “higher class trying to emulate a lower class” and so she wasn’t interested in vaping. However, after trying vaping for social reasons, she too eventually adopted the practice for smoking cessation. She said:

“I’ve been trying to quit smoking. I’m trying to transition through an e-cigarette. Because I wasn’t one of those people who could quit cold turkey, which I tried a lot of times, but it didn’t really work for me. So everyone is ‘yeah, you should try smoking with an e-cigarette’…you still get the feeling like you’re smoking, but it’s easier to quit than smoking cigarettes. So I think that’s later on what vaping became for me.”