Critical Inquiry Critical Inquiry

Tactics of Appearance for Abolition Democracy #BlackLivesMatter

Nicholas Mirzoeff


Police killings captured on cell-phone video or photographs and the protests that resulted have become the defining feature of present-day United States visual culture. While these pictures may evoke the now classic photographs and television coverage of the civil rights movement (1956–1968), they operate in a very different fashion. If the earlier movement appealed against segregation to the country as a whole via the media, often using the US flag as a symbol, Black Lives Matter deployed its visual activism very differently.[1] These photographs and videos have revealed the wide-ranging operations of white supremacy acting under the guise of a law-and-order society. This “America” is made visible the intersection of three streams of visibility: first, the witnessing of these scenes, depicted in cell-phone videos and photographs and supplemented by machine-generated imagery from body cameras, dash cams, and closed-circuit television (CCTV); second, the embodied protests and actions taken to claim justice and to make injustice visible; and finally, the sharing of these images and actions by social media posts that in turn made their way into mainstream media. If the strategy is, as it has been for so long, abolition democracy, then these were tactics for the moment between the killings of Eric Garner and Michael Brown in July and August 2014 and the inauguration of Donald Trump in January 2017. The tactics deployed were those of refusal, articulated by copresence between digital and physical spaces, persistent looking, and vulnerability. Using these tactics, Black Lives Matter created a new means to prefigure a different “America,” a space of appearance for abolition democracy. In those spaces, people can appear to each other in the “impossible” relation of abolition democracy. Black Lives Matter persists in looking at this appearance, so that it may be experienced and explored, and then seeks ways to make it sustainable.

These, then, are not just images. Nor are they just images (in the sense of creating justice) by themselves. Like any other fragment recuperated from the totalizing ambition of the carceral state, they need to be activated, forced out of the continuum of racial capitalism’s ever-advancing time, so as to be collectively inhabited and experienced by means of reenactment. That is to say, they are in themselves modalities of reclaiming space in order to refuse white supremacy. People are being killed in racialized spaces—housing projects and urban neighborhoods that are marked by the visible lack of state or social care. Black Lives Matter protests have first made these spaces visible, as in the paradigmatic case of Ferguson. This small, intensely policed, overwhelmingly African American yet white-administered township became the name of a different way to see “America.” #Ferguson was used an astonishing 21.6 million times from June 2014 to May 2015 as a site-specific means of depicting the present conditions of white supremacy.[2] Having made these usually unseen spaces indexical, Black Lives Matter next reclaimed spaces of connection—roads, transport, infrastructure, malls, intersections, train stations, political rallies, concert halls, sports arenas, libraries, and lecture halls—to refuse to keep calm or carry on. It is the function of the police and the prison industrial complex, the infrastructures of white supremacy, to keep such spaces separate, that is to say, segregated. By making the connections apparent, Black Lives Matter actions make systemic racism itself newly visible.

Appearance and Refusal

 In order to situate these tactics, I want to appropriate Hannah Arendt’s evocative phrase “the space of appearance” to describe the doubled experience of revealed police violence and subsequent protests in the same or connected spaces.[3] However, I will be using it in a very different way. Arendt situated this space “wherever men are together in the manner of speech and action” in the democracy of the ancient Greek city state, or polis, which was founded (as she herself attests) on the exclusion of women, children, non-Greeks, and enslaved human beings.[4] It was more exactly a space of representation because all those admitted represented the title of free male citizens. In keeping with one thread of Arendt scholarship, it might be said that the space of appearance was understood this way as an articulation (conscious or not) of white supremacy.>[5] Appearance here is not representation, either in the political or cultural sense, but the very possibility of appearing directly.[6]

The spaces where black lives appeared to matter in the US were those places where white supremacy was refused by means of affirming the right of black people to live and to have value. Black Lives Matter is both a statement of affirmation for those identifying as black[7] and a statement—not a question—posed to those designated white. In that space, the black person and those in affiliation with blackness might also see each other otherwise than as predicated by the color line and invent each other in an uneven but dialogic imagination. The freedom of appearance is a practice, whereby we make ourselves visible to each other. The person designated white appears in order to listen to what the other, identifying as black, might have to say, even and especially when they are silent.[8] The construction of this common sensation of black and blackness has been persistently produced when bodies deemed black position themselves in spaces deemed white. Nonetheless, the experience of a space of appearance is always uneven, depending on how and why you have entered it. As Jacques Rancière put it in defining politics against Arendt, such appearance “makes visible that which had no reason to be seen . . . [because] it lodges one world into another.”[9] To be sure, the space of appearance does not end racial hierarchy. It reveals what African American poet and philosopher Fred Moten has called “the constitutive disorder of the polis,” in which who can appear and who cannot, and why, are the properly political questions.[10] Who has the right to appear in urban space? “Whose streets?” people ask during protests, a chant that has been disturbingly adopted since Trump’s election by white supremacists in Charlottesville and even the St. Louis police. This is what it now means to be intersectional: who gets to hold the intersection?

The democracy at stake here is not the representative democracy presumed to derive from Athens but abolition democracy, whose question was posed by W. E. B. Du Bois:

What were to be the limits of democratic control in the United States [after abolition]? If all labor, black and white, became free, were given schools and the right to vote, what control could or should be set to the power and action of these laborers? Was the rule of the mass of Americans to be unlimited, and the right to rule extended to all men regardless of race and color, or if not, what power of dictatorship would rule, and how would property and privilege be protected?[11]

In short, was democracy to be democratic, a space of appearance, or authoritarian in the defense of property and representation? Since the rise of mass incarceration, Angela Davis has suggested that abolition must now begin with the end of the prison industrial complex, for “prison abolition is a way of talking about the pitfalls of the particular version of democracy represented by U.S. capitalism.”[12] This connection means that the making visible of the injustices of policing is a necessary tactic of abolition democracy.

In her recent reconsideration of Arendt, through which I have thought this piece, Judith Butler claimed a “right to appear” that is nonetheless at once constrained by “norms of recognition that are themselves hierarchical and exclusionary.” Black Lives Matter protests are instead an example of what she calls she calls “anarchist moments or anarchist passages . . . [that] lay claim to the public in a way that is not yet codified into law and that can never be fully codified into law.”[13] The anarchism of these moments is not just the suspension of law but the pre-figuration of the very possibility of appearing in ways that are not codified by white supremacy, including (for those designated white, like myself) being antiantiblackness, against colonialism and against white supremacy. To appear is to refuse.

At present to be in any American jurisdiction and to be visibly identifiable by the police as black is indeed to be subject to an extensive code of regulated appearance, as defined by the writer Garnette Cadogan for his walks in New York City: “no running especially at night; no sudden movements; no hoodies; no objects—especially shiny ones—in hand; no waiting for friends on street corners, lest I be mistaken for a drug dealer; no standing near a corner on the cell phone (same reason).”[14] Any person, like myself, who can do any of these things without being stopped by the police is white, regardless of skin tone. The archive of violent encounters with police created by Black Lives Matter has led the poet Claudia Rankine to create another such list of unpermitted behavior for black people:

no hands in your pockets, no playing music, no sudden movements, no driving your car, no walking at night, no walking in the day, no turning onto this street, no entering this building, no standing your ground, no standing here, no standing there, no talking back, no playing with toy guns, no living while black.[15]

Taken together, these vernacular regulations, a governmentality for the racialized, demonstrate the quotidian operations of antiblackness. It is against such forms of antiblackness that an antiantiblackness must be articulated.

These are tactics of refusal. This refusal operates within the genealogy of the black radical tradition that Cedric Robinson has named as the “historical antilogic to racism, slavery and capitalism.” [16] This antilogic may become visible when a space of appearance is formed by Black Lives Matter in making police violence visible that was otherwise ignored, beyond the communities and individuals concerned. The formation of such a space is what Moten calls “not in between.”[17] The engagement of logic and antilogic does not become a synthesis. As Frantz Fanon had it, “the two confront each other but not in the service of a higher unity.”[18] Antilogic—antiracism, antifascism, antihierarchy, antipatriarchy—sustains the space and attempts to form abolition democracy. It does so not by the power of its logic, still less by the force of law that sustains the logic of racial capitalism. It draws its capacity from the social movement or revolutionary impetus that brought it into being. But it is not finished or completed. Adapting a phrase coined by the Decolonizing Architecture collective in the context of Palestine, I would say that it is “not yet defined.”[19] It is site specific, open to the future, which is not given but beyond the past that is accepted as normative.

In this context, “blackness” is a specific formation of what Rancière calls the visible and the sayable, produced by the connection of particular but not essential components. As Alexander Weheliye usefully defines it, “blackness designates a changing system of unequal power structures that apportion and delimit which humans can lay claim to full human status and which humans cannot.”[20] Those with full human status are designated white, a category that is not always correlated to skin pigmentation. Further, because these relations are articulated across the span of the human, limitations on those designated black limit everyone. As Alicia Garza, cofounder of the #BlackLivesMatter project with Opal Tometti and Patrisse Kahn-Cullors, has put it: “When we are able to end hyper-criminalization and sexualization of Black people and end the poverty, control, and surveillance of Black people, every single person in this world has a better shot at getting and staying free. When Black people get free, everybody gets free.”[21] Which means that unless black people get free, nobody gets free. With the seemingly unending repetition of black death at the hands of law enforcement and the seas of statistics about deprivation and discrimination, no one can think that all US citizens are equal before the law. Nonetheless, a new moment of abolition began in 2014, in which people began to claim justice precisely because they did not have it. That the moments keep coming in which the energy contained in social and visual frames breaks out of the restraints imposed by and as the society of control,[22] which is itself now notably out of control, I take to be the condition of the present space(s) of appearance and the hope for future years ahead. And by contrast, the furious reaction against them, later made fully visible at Charlottesville in August 2017, has shown that white supremacy is aware of the threat to its hegemony and intends to defend it.

Tactic 1: Persistent Looking

The key new tactic of abolition democracy used during the Black Lives Matter movement has been persistent looking, meaning a refusal to look away from what is kept out of sight, off stage, and out of view. This look is sustained by long histories of resistance. It is comprised of a set of grounded, distributed, repeated but not traumatic actions, whose persistence is enabled in part by social media. It calls for us to see what there is to see, to be vulnerable, but not to be traumatized. Looking, here, is both witnessing and the embodied engagement with space. Such performances of looking are about the recurring present that people choose not to escape and continue to record in digital media. Persistently, they choose to keep looking against the prohibitions of the carceral state and to feel the presence of the absent bodies of those fallen, from Michael Brown and Eric Garner to Sandra Bland, Alton Sterling, and Philando Castile—and so many more. In that repeated present, the presence of the future can be felt. Repetition matters here, as a means both of instilling the urgency of the situation in others and for the participants to overcome their first shock in order to understand what has actually happened. The formal similarity and repetition of the actions transforms them from being simply protests—meaning an indexical call to the state or other authority to remedy a wrong—to invocations of the right to appear and formations of the space of appearance.

There is an entire history of slavery in the Americas contained within this looking. Slavery sustained its regime by what I have elsewhere called “oversight,” the felt surveillance of the overseer over enslaved human beings.[23] While this regime was ultimately enabled by spectacular violence, it allowed for the quotidian performance of complicated labor, often not under direct supervision. A French planter from Saint-Domingue mourned after the revolution that created Haiti the passing of “the variety of magic, which gave the empire of opinion to whiteness, and made it so that three or four whites could sleep in all security, with their doors open, on a property where four or five hundred blacks were subjected to a more or less grievous labor.”[24] Under US slavery, the look of the enslaved at an overseer or owner was known as “eye service” and was immediately punishable. [25] It was a particular feature of being “reckless,” which was the name for any activity by the enslaved that might bring them to the attention and violence of the overseer and his drivers.[26]

During the Jim Crow period, looking across the color line became by condensation “reckless eyeballing,” with the added connotation of forbidden desire that authorized fatal violence in response.[27] Although it was never formally part of the legal code, such looking was used to aggravate assault charges to rape as recently as 1952 in the case of Matt Ingram. However, after pressure from the NAACP and African American media like Ebony, the state supreme court vacated the conviction because: “it cannot be said that a pedestrian may be assaulted by a look, however frightening, from a person riding in an automobile some distance away. . . . He may have looked with lustful eyes but there was the absence of any overt act.”[28] The look no longer represented grounds for conviction. “Reckless eyeballing” nonetheless remains part of the informal codes of the prison industrial complex both inside institutions and as part of law enforcement. To cite just one example, in a 2013 case in Florida, a man’s conviction was upheld on appeal in part because a female corrections officer testified that he had performed reckless eyeballing against her.[29] Remember Freddie Gray in Baltimore. His only offence was that he met the look of a police officer in the eye, leading to an assumption of guilt for which he ended up dead. He appeared always already marked in the space where police believed themselves to be sovereign. To meet the police gaze was lèse-majesté in the language of sovereignty but, as bell hooks named it, simply “uppity” in the language of racialized encounters.[30] All the trials of the police officers involved in the death of Gray resulted in acquittals, with subsequent charges dropped, as if no one but Gray could be responsible for his death.

Notably, Black Lives Matter protestors have described the experience of the movement as a coming-to-meet-the-police gaze. In Ferguson, Missouri, Johnetta Elie, who tweets as @Netaaaaaaaa and became a key voice in the movement, described how: “I decided to dare the police to look at the faces of the babies and children their dogs were so ready to chase down. As more people began to look directly at the police and yell their grievances, the more aggravated they became.”[31] As can be seen in official scene of the crime photographs, St. Louis police used police dogs within hours of Brown’s death to deter protestors, so Elie’s decolonizing look back was not a metaphor (fig. 1).[32] It was foundational to Black Lives Matter.

That look was directly recorded when in November 2015, photographer John J. Kim took a picture of then-sixteen-year-old protestor Lamon Reccord confronting a police sergeant in Chicago (fig. 2). Each stares at the other, directly in the eye.

Reccord stands fully committed to his right to engage the police as public servants. Despite his age, Reccord is claiming full citizenship, something that the equally engaged return look of the police seeks to deny him. That police officer is African American, just as three of the six police responsible for the death of Gray happened to be.[33] The point is that systemic racism operates above and beyond the imputed but not actually existing race of each individual within it in order to situate the place from which it is possible to look. Persistent looking has rendered that system visible in and of itself.

Tactic 2: Copresence

This possibility was enabled because the spaces of appearance created by protests and vigils are newly visible, or more exactly networked—via cellphone video, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and Vine—in a set of interactive and intersensory relays that create a copresence between physical and digital spaces. The “space” in which protestors might want to appear now has at least two modalities in a common temporality. In this sense, the long-standing sociological concept of copresence, meaning face-to-face interaction, has been updated for the digital era.[34] Such digital copresence has been defined as “the diverse ways in which people maintain a sense of ‘being there’ for each other across distance.”[35] Black Lives Matter extended and modeled how such copresence should be done in activist contexts. After Ferguson, #BlackLivesMatter was repurposed from its 2012 origins after the murder of Trayvon Martin into a hyperlinked source for disseminating news on Twitter and Instagram about police violence against black people.[36] In turn, it created an online movement, formed when people located each other using the hashtag. And then it became interactive with physical actions in the streets. Activist Deray McKesson described how this happened:

In those early days, we were united by #Ferguson on Twitter. . . . And once the protests began to spread, we became aware of something compelling and concise, something that provided common language to describe the protests: the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. . . . Many of us became friends digitally, first. And then we, the protestors, met in person.[37]

This possibility was an articulation of the way in which Twitter, in the words of communications scholar André Brock, can enable “a discursive, public performance of Black identity.”[38] The use of the hashtags as horizontal identifiers enabled people to find each other and to begin physical encounters and actions, creating what Negar Mottahedeh has called “collective sensorial solidarity online.”[39] This copresence made it possible to form spaces of appearance, sometimes with surprising speed and reach. The limited place of interaction became an open space of appearance.

To take one action among many: on Martin Luther King Day 2016, protestors in San Francisco shut down the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge by chaining themselves together through a line of vehicles. There was no call for legislation. There was relatively little national media coverage but widespread dissemination on social media. It was not, in short, an action claiming recognition. By contrast, a mass demonstration makes a demand of state authority. Since the mass antiwar demonstrations of 2003 were dismissed by President George W. Bush as a “focus group,” such demands have consistently been ignored by state power in the US, including those of the People’s Climate March in 2014 and the Million Woman March in January 2017.[40] On the Bay Bridge, there was a reversal whereby those whose negotiation of space is usually unhindered and under benevolent supervision found themselves instead inconvenienced by having to experience people, both black and white, blocking traffic to make the disruptive claim that black lives matter. The protestors’ chains forced a visible reversal whereby the police had to cut the shackles of black people. While mediated copresence makes these spaces persist and resonate, they cannot be sustained or developed online. Such unheralded actions became visible to millions when Black Lives Matter activists chained themselves together at one of the entrances to the inauguration of Trump on 21 January 2017. This was one of several such direct actions, joining blockades by feminists, climate justice activists, and Standing Rock activists. Each action had a slightly different character, reflecting those participating. Black Lives Matter made a strong visual impact by using chains in an unmistakable evocation of slavery, trying to limit access of white people to celebrate the accession of an avowed racist to live in the White House, built as it was by enslaved labor.

Tactics 3: Hands Up, Don’t Shoot

In the space of copresence, the Black Lives Matter movement mobilized political bodies from vulnerable bodies in order to sustain spaces in which its claim to look persistently at the actions of police can appear. Ruth Wilson Gilmore has defined racism as the “production and exploitation of group-differentiated vulnerability to premature death.”[41] The signature gestures of the post-Ferguson movement were the new action “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” and the appropriation of the older tactic of the mass die-in. By appropriative reversal of vulnerability, these embodied performances reclaimed the right to existence, the first claim of all abolition. This vulnerable moment creates a dynamic whereby those following or watching feel actively engaged, whether online or locally. It calls to the witness and the watcher to become engaged first through bodily mimesis and then by making the watching body political. Political bodies oppose themselves by means of these repetitions to the representation of the state by the police.

            “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” transformed the existing vernacular of black protest into the signature of a movement. In 2013, Los Angeles residents took to wearing T-shirts saying “Don’t Shoot, I’m Not Chris Dorner,” referring to the shootings of three civilians by the LAPD during the pursuit of their former officer.[42] A year later, in February 2014, Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson wrote a widely circulated piece under the headline “I’m Black, Don’t Shoot Me” in response to the shooting of Jordan Davis by Michael Dunn because the latter found Davis’s music to be too loud.[43] At Eric Garner’s funeral on 23 July 2014, mourners wore T-shirts reading “Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Black,” although Garner was not shot but strangled by police. The events in Ferguson transformed this set of associations into a new form of embodied protest. Although “Hands Up” flowed from what was believed to have happened, it was not a simple recreation of the scene of the murder. Leaving aside the question of whether Brown raised his hands (a possibility complicated by the fact his right arm was broken by a bullet before he turned around), the gesture of raised hands did imitate those made at the scene, such as those of a white contractor, caught on a cell-phone video.[44] He stood with his hands raised in a gesture that clearly asks: “why did you shoot if his hands were up?” It expresses puzzlement and confusion as much as rejection. On the first evening after the shooting on 9 August 2014, protestors at the scene came together to hold a vigil at the request of Brown’s mother Lesley McFadden. Confronted by police with dogs, as if it was suddenly Birmingham in 1963, they responded by raising their hands, documented in a Vine video posted by Antonio French, a local councilor.[45]

The action was a montage including both the isolated and vulnerable body of Brown and their own resistance into a common identification—for they knew that any one of them could have been killed as Brown had been. The next day, the chant “don’t shoot,” attributed by then to Brown, was added to the gesture and performed by itself at the Canfield Green housing complex as part of the ongoing protests, again captured by Councilor French on a Vine.


A press photograph taken by Michael B. Thomas of a protest on 11 August shows a handwritten poster displayed in front of Ferguson police station, in which the phrase “Hands Up” was added to create the full statement.[46] By 12 August, three days after Brown’s death, activists were already circulating printed flyers with the slogan “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” as seen in Scott Olson’s press photographs from Ferguson.

These words were combined with the action of raising hands as a call-and-response marching action: “Hands up?” “Don’t Shoot!” It calls to people to join in, to become part of the action, a highly effective and affective embodied political protest. When it was first seen in New York City on 14 August 2014, people rushed out of buildings to share the gesture or join the march. At the same time, “Hands Up” is a command to the police that says “when people have their hands up, don’t shoot.” In itself, this would be—or should be—an unremarkable statement. But it follows: “Our hands are up; you don’t dare to shoot.” By not only displaying vulnerability but admitting to it and doing so in numbers, the performance gains a paradoxical strength. “Hands Up” was not in this sense addressed to the police at all but to the protestors, naming political bodies that can be wounded, even die, but do not submit and are open to others. The feminist implication of this vulnerability as strength became clear when women formed the #SayHerName project. Because the conventional space of representation is normatively masculine, there was an unequal response at first to the deaths of African American women at the hands of the police. Protestors took the appearance of the sexualized female body and rendered it political. Naked to the waist in articulated affiliation with West African traditions, black women blocked traffic in San Francisco on 21 May 2015 with their bodies to force the connection between their visibility and the forgotten names of women killed by police: Rekia Boyd, Sandra Bland, Keyla Moore, Shelley Frey, Joyce Curren, and so many more.[47]

“Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” pauses the action at the crucial moment, when any “reasonable person” (to use the legal phrase) would have ceased firing at a wounded, surrendering child. It concentrates our attention on the vital moment (in the sense of living as well as essential) before the definitive violence. The action prevents the media from its usual call for closure, healing and moving on. Protestors choose to remain in that moment that is not singular but has already been repeated. It is said that Roman gladiators addressed the emperor: “Those who are about to die salute you.” Those performing “Hands Up,” as if about to die, do not salute the sovereign power of the police, and do not accept their right to kill. They refuse for those people who have died to die again, and prohibit any future shots. “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” is the first product of the interaction of the Snapchat/selfie generation with direct action in the streets because it created a new self-image of the protestor.[48] It is not a simple reenactment. It is a protest at the killing of an unarmed child and all the other operations of the prison-industrial complex by those who in fact have most to fear from it: people placing themselves in situations that can be deemed noncompliant, allowing the police to claim the right to shoot.

Tactic 4: The Die-In

Political bodies in the space of appearance are not eternal like the body of the king, and so they have suspended death in the die-in. This counterbody politic is dying but not dead. Because death is the sanction applied by the carceral state and white supremacy for noncompliance, the new civil rights movement, like many before it from feminism to ACT UP and the environmental movement, has reclaimed it as a means by which to disrupt commercial space and divert it into becoming a temporary commons. Greenham Common women performed die-ins in protest against cruise missiles stationed at the US Airforce base in Britain, while ACT UP activists staged a now-legendary die-in on Wall Street in 1987 to protest the lack of AIDS treatment. In the recent protests, resistance took over the spaces of circulation and consumption. In November 2014, one of the first mass die-ins in New York took over Grand Central Station during the evening rush hour, causing a dramatic response online. Protests continued every week in Grand Central for a year and continue to take place as of this writing. Online activism generated solidarity actions worldwide, such as a British “I Can’t Breathe” die-in at the Australian-owned Westfield Mall in London. Rather than restage one death at a time, there have been mass die-ins, making it clear that all who might fail to comply are all potential targets. When counterbody politics die in, the “non-places” of shopping malls and transport hubs become visible as the spatial component of the policed society, the only public spaces we are supposed to inhabit.[49] Performed death surrenders to visuality’s dominant viewpoint from above, making each person vulnerable, but creates a sense of freedom as you rest your body with others in spaces where you never normally are at rest. You experience solidarity as the collective body dying in. You may close your eyes, listen to the silence, broken only by counting that does not enumerate value but reperforms the eleven statements: “I Can't Breathe,” the last words of Garner, the body of the commons dying and yet refusing to depart. In dying but not transitioning into death, the die-in prevents the circulation of commodities. There is within these movements a set of tactics that form what Diana Taylor would call a repertoire, not an archive, of abolition democracy.[50] From such repertoires, it becomes possible to create a space of appearance outside norms. The political body in movement opens the way to overwrite spaces of owned and militarized appearance in order to constitute a different ground for politics.

Tactic 5: Redacted Spaces of Nonappearance

This repertoire can also be assembled from the new range of machine-generated visual materials recording the repeated police killings, what we might call the machine repertoire in an assemblage of persistent looking. These are the videos from dash cams, body cameras, CCTV, and other forms of surveillance of and by the police. Politicians and some activist groups like Campaign Zero often propose these devices as a solution for the problem of police violence. From Garner to Bland, Sterling, and Rice (among many others), it is now clear that the existence of such materials has not and will not lead to indictments, let alone convictions, despite the apparent neutrality of the recording machines. Like any other device, the machines can be manipulated. The International Association of Chiefs of Police reported on in-car cameras in 2006 and concluded, “If the officers believe that the cameras are being installed strictly for the purpose of disciplinary actions, the agency’s program will be plagued with broken equipment and little support from the rank and file.”[51] That is exactly what has happened: for example, both officers involved in the killing of Sterling on 5 July 2016 had body cameras that somehow became dislodged.

How might it be possible to (not) look at these images and the seemingly endless stream of videos of police killings in another way? For many people, especially black people, looking over and over again at broken black and brown bodies has become intolerable, especially after the concurrent deaths of Sterling and Castile.[52] Such sentiment has been building for some time. For example, Brown’s family objected to white artist Ti-Rock Moore making a (somewhat inaccurate) life-size recreation of his dead body for a Chicago exhibition in 2015.[53] Perhaps the visual evidence can be used tactically to show the space of nonappearance, the no one’s land where people die. The space of nonappearance is the racialized counterpart to the “non-places” of consumer society, designated “white.” Located in between private and corporate property, such spaces have become a featureless killing zone.[54] This zone is an index of state violence without making a spectacle of the deaths that are and have always been the gross product of the settler state. In order to make this zone of nonappearance visible, all one needs to do is crop a still image taken from the video to exclude the fallen or about-to-be-wounded person.[55] In part in dialog with my earlier work, Christina Sharpe has called such tactics “Black visual/textual annotation and redaction.”[56] This redaction is a tactical form of visual refusal. Far from being censorship—the complete images still being widely available—this is a coming into visibility of what is otherwise not seen or ignored—the space of nonappearance. Let us give that space a name: America. The name is meant to convey an ideology, not a geography, the militarized white supremacy of the settler colony.

In figure 3, I have edited the dash cam video that shows the fatal police shooting in 2014 of teenager Laquan McDonald in Chicago to exclude his body (fig. 3). There was a yearlong dispute over the release of this video, which clearly demonstrates that Officer Jason van Dyke shot McDonald when he posed no threat. What is most appalling and heartbreaking about the video is that Laquan was left entirely alone after being shot no less than sixteen times, even though he still seems to be alive. It is unbearable to watch. However, in the long dispute over the video’s release, his family argued against making it public. They would have known that forty-six of seventy people killed by Chicago Police Department from 2010 to 2014 were black.[57] That of 400 shootings, fatal and nonfatal, from 2007 to 2015, the Independent Police Review Authority found only one to be unjustified. And no doubt, like the Ferguson community, they feared reprisals. Note that everything was done by Chicago police to prevent the scene from being recorded. Only one of the five police vehicles at the scene recorded video. All failed to record any sound, which is important for determining the pattern of shots.

What is now seen of the America where McDonald died? A chain link fence. A billboard announcing to no one whatever real estate development is intended to take over the space. A deserted bus stop. Weeds taking over the sidewalk. The image conveys a terrible loneliness, the awful meaninglessness of the scene. Corporate space dazzles with halogen lighting and video displays. Private houses lurk behind their alarms and CCTV. In between is no one’s land, the killing zone. This bleak capturing of US reality is common to these videos that have become the hallmark of its visual culture.

Consider figure 4, a still from the police dash cam video that shows the scene where Sandra Bland was stopped in Texas on 13 July 2015 for failing to signal a lane change, a stop that was to cost her life (fig. 4). A country road. Trees. Evening. These comprise the stage directions for Waiting for Godot. The space is again featureless. A broad, deserted road with no visible markings. To whom, we might ask, did Bland need to signal her lane change? Utility wires dangle, awaiting the next storm to fall. The hazy white sky of a climate-changed Southern summer. It is no one’s responsibility to maintain or enhance nonprivate property in the US and so no one does. No one’s land. No one cares. Someone dies. This is the space of nonappearance. In Waiting for Godot (whose stage directions are evoked here), Lucky, a slave driver, arrives instead of Godot and terrorizes them. Today in no one’s land, America, the unlucky residents await the arrival of the police at any time whatever, on any day whatever.

The emptiness of these American spaces is formally analogous to the mind-destroying cells of the prison-industrial complex. Figure 5 is an edited still from the video showing the tasering of Philip Coleman, an African American graduate of the University of Chicago, who was incarcerated on 12 December 2012 after suffering a psychotic episode at his mother’s house (fig. 5).[58] Arrested for assault because he spat at police, he was ultimately tased thirteen times before his arraignment. The incident ended with his death from an adverse reaction to antipsychotic medication. The image shows the cell adjacent to Coleman’s, visible in the video and identical to his in every way. The cell is so devoid of features as to defy verbal description. A blue shelf to place the body of the incarcerated. White walls. Bars. You can almost see the claustrophobia, the insufferable boredom, the discomfort and the smell. These are the spaces in which the US confines its mentally ill. According to the Treatment Advocacy Center, in 2012 there were an estimated 356,268 inmates with severe mental illness in prisons and jails, ten times the number of such patients in state psychiatric hospitals.[59] There is a further mirroring of abandoned urban spaces and the deserted rural locations where prisons are built, as Gilmore has pointed out: “These forgotten places, and their urban counterparts, can be understood to form one political world, abandoned but hardly defeated.”[60] They form the present day “carceral landscape,” first formed in slavery, modified under Jim Crow and rendered into spaces of nonappearance under the present regime of mass incarceration.[61]

Tactic 6: Copresent Refusal

The machine-generated image stream and the digital copresence of Black Lives Matter actions converged in the self-broadcast by Diamond Reynolds at the scene of the killing of her boyfriend Philando Castile in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota on 6 July 2016. The police thought Castile’s “wide-set nose” matched that of a robbery suspect, a description that could encompass most African American men.[62] For Mr. Castile, this was the fifty-third and last such stop he had endured in the area for driving while black. The cop told Castile to produce his license and registration. In an excess of caution, Castile responded that he was carrying a weapon, for which he had a permit. When he reached for his wallet to produce his documents, the as-ever panicked officer shot him several times, leading to his death.

At this moment Reynolds began broadcasting networked video on Facebook Live. Showing astonishing composure, she describes what has just happened in detail, calling the officer, who visibly continues to point his weapon at her, “Sir.” Her face is composed, elegant, perhaps elegiac. The phone camera makes her appear blue (fig. 6), unintentionally evoking the articulation of black and blue from Miles Davis to David Hammons. Realizing that Castile has passed, she repeatedly asks: “Please don’t tell me that he’s gone.”

Reynolds calls on the law not to break its own promise to protect and to serve. She speaks of Castile’s compliance with the officer’s request and of the breach of procedure—her term. In Sophocles’s tragedy, Antigone defies the state by burying her slain rebel brother against a royal prohibition. She puts justice and the sibling bond above process of law, for which she dies a living death, buried alive. Reynolds speaks to the law and demands that it not speak of what it has done. In that silence, Castile will not yet have died. All the while she is live, Facebook Live, and alive but under threat of death from the gun.

For minutes, what we see is a static view from Reynolds’s phone (fig. 7). A suburban road. Wires. Evening. The messy physicality of the network that enables us to see her. It becomes our view because she is being arrested, apparently for the offense of being present. Her camera, lying on the ground as if in a die-in for machines, continues to stream live. Like Antigone, Reynolds’s speech act has not prevented the law from its enactment of death. Antigone in St. Paul, a fatal reprise of the staging of Antigone in Ferguson after the murder of Michael Brown.[63] St. Paul who, as Saul, was stopped on the road to Damascus of all places, accused by Jesus of persecution. But he was not frisked and he was not shot. As Paul, he went on to write the one piece of scripture miscited by Trump during the election campaign as Two Corinthians (usually known as Second Corinthians but written 2 Corinthians).

Just days after the presidential election, as if to keep the case out of the public eye, charges were finally filed against Officer Jeronimo Yanez.[64] He was later acquitted of all charges. After the trial, a dash cam video was released, depicting the incident. It is truly disturbing. Janez arrives at the car window at 21.05:23. At 21.05:55 Castile notifies the officer he has a firearm. Officer says “Don’t reach for it then. . . . Don’t pull it out. . . . Don’t pull it out.” And fires repeatedly at 21.06.00. Castile was dead after thirty-seven seconds. Reynolds’s video makes it clear that there was nothing in Castile’s hands. It was not until 21.10:50 that Castile was roughly pulled from the car and a token effort at CPR was made. At 21:13, Yanez claims to arriving officers that he told Castile to “take his hand off of it,” meaning the gun, which was a lie, as the video has just shown. He claims Castile had his grip a lot wider than a wallet, which makes no sense because a gun handle would be narrower than a wallet. Yanez says: “It was just getting hinky, he was just staring straight ahead and I was getting fucking nervous.” “Hinky” is cop slang for suspicious. Janez says that he again told Castile to get his hand off the gun. All this supposedly in five seconds. But none of it happened, as we can see for ourselves. “Good work,” he’s told by another officer. And that visible set of lies was good work indeed because he was acquitted.

Reynolds continues to live with difficulty on the precarious margins of white Minnesota.[65] In her video, she created a tragic form for our fragmented time. A moment in which Vine, the popular but soon to be discontinued six-second video format, created new narratives and in which the 140-character character assassination won the presidency. Her ten-minute film has unity of time, place, and action. It has loss. It is not about the hero. It expresses the fundamental separation and antagonism of white supremacy and opens a space of appearance to claim justice.

Interregnum: The Police View of History

In the uneasy interval between the presidential election and the inauguration, two legal decisions reinforced the power of white supremacy to rewrite the interpretation of visual materials and counter any possible space of appearance. In the case of Walter Scott, shot by police in North Charleston, South Carolina on 4 April 2015, a cell-phone video showing a police officer shooting a man running away eight times in the back and then planting evidence resulted only in a mistrial.[66]


Walter Scott shooting from The Post and Courier on Vimeo.


Keith Lamont Scott was shot to death by police officer Brentley Vinson on 20 September 2016 in a parking lot in Charlotte, North Carolina while waiting to collect one of his children. In December 2016, Andrew Murray, the District Attorney in Charlotte, announced that no charges would be brought. In so doing, he released a twenty-two-page single-spaced document of justification.[67] The central question throughout his account is not the actions of the police but the gun owned by Scott. The video evidence from body cameras and a cell-phone video taken by Rekiya Scott (wife of the deceased) does not show that he had the gun in his hand, or even show his hands at all. It does clearly demonstrate that he never raised his hands in such a way that he might fire that gun, even if you believe that he was holding it. Is that sufficient reason, beyond a doubt, for a person to be shot to death? The District Attorney set out to displace that simple question with an array of questionable and marginal evidence.

Following the tactics used in the earlier case of Darren Wilson, Brown’s killer,[68] repeated witness statements that Scott was reading a book were discounted by discovering other minor alleged inaccuracies. We are told that no book was found. But there was “a purple composition notebook that was found wedged between the center console and the front passenger seat” (“KLS,” p. 13). Were witnesses asked what kind of book Scott was reading? Was anything written in the notebook that he might have been reading? These things we are not told. As in the Wilson case, photographs created at the location after the event were used to impeach witness testimony. Police took photographs from the spot at which witnesses said they were standing and used them to prove that it would have been “very difficult, if not impossible” for them to have seen what they claimed to have seen (“KLS,” p.11). However, people are not geometric points. We can and do move our heads, lean or stand on tiptoe to see things. If we look at the two photographs supplied by the District Attorney, the point seems unproven: the foliage of the trees does get in the way, but does it make it impossible to see people? Notably, the witness in question also said he had “often” seen Scott reading in that spot before (fig. 8) (“KLS,” p. 10).

Compare this version of the necessity of seeing with the dismissal of what was so very clearly seen in the case of Walter Scott. To indict a police officer, it seems, an absolutely clear view of a palpable crime is required. That condition was fulfilled in the case of Scott. However, to convict that officer of murder, there is no visual evidence whatever that will convince at least some white people beyond a “reasonable” doubt. Law and reason necessarily interact in procedural as well as epistemological frames. A person must be held capable of understanding the charges against them to be tried, and to have known the difference between right and wrong to be convicted. Police Officer Michael Slager asserted, like so many police, that he felt “total fear” in his encounter with Scott.[69] That totality, which eclipsed all reason, becomes the enabler of “reasonable” doubt. Fear cannot be doubted, fear becomes reason. None of this can be seen. The calm disposition of the officer as he shot can be seen in the video, as may the steadiness of his hand before and after and the calculated way he moved the taser to give him a case for the shooting. None of this counters the verbal expression of fear. In an evocation of 1960s civil rights movement trials, Slager later pled guilty to violating Scott’s civil rights in Federal court and was sentenced to twenty years, ten less than he would have faced for murder.[70]

What Matters Now?

It used to be said of liberty that once seen, you could never go back. I’m not so sure of that now. What has happened is a double negative. For those that did not fully know, but should have known, the span of death and legal process that goes from Garner and Brown, via Bland and Boyd, to Sterling and Castile (July 2014 to December 2016) has been the time to unlearn the unseeing imposed on the space of appearance by white supremacy. It renders blackness visible as what Simone Browne calls “that nonnameable matter that matters the racialized disciplinary society.”[71] For black lives to matter, that matter must be the point of departure for how we see America. It is far from clear whether it will be.

On the weekend after the presidential election in November 2016, I participated in a Black Lives Matter march in a Long Island congressional district that had swung strongly for Trump. The march was confronted by Trump supporters, one of whom held a sign reading “Balls Matter” (fig. 9). One Trump slogan often reproduced on memorabilia like T-shirts was “Finally, someone with balls.” It was condensed here with the counterslogan “Blue Lives Matter,” used by supporters of the police. Or maybe it simply held that white male misogyny was now what mattered.

Black Lives Matter is a dialogic formation; black people hear it as affirmation, while for white people is an enjoinder and reminder. On 20 January 2017 Trump ended that dialog from his new position as the President of the United States. His inaugural address contrasted his belief in “America first,” widely understood to be a reference to 1930s era white supremacy, with “American carnage.” This dog-whistle phrase combined a disparaging reference to black-on-black crime, especially in Chicago, Trump’s favorite dystopia, with an allusion to the number of police allegedly being killed by black people as a result of the so-called Ferguson effect. Under the new regime, Black Lives Matter finds itself “in the wake,” to use Sharpe’s trenchant phrase.[72] In the wake of Black Lives Matter, the movement has been driven from its intended course by the intensification of white supremacy. There is a wake of militancy and mourning for Black Lives Matter, a remembering of its intentions and energies with a determination that its goals not be lost. And there is a recoil, the third meaning of the word wake. For Trump voters it takes the form of a “whitelash,” meaning a rejection of what Black Lives Matter stands for. For its supporters, the recoil comes in learning how much racism and racial hatred constitutes the peculiar state of the union. At time of writing, police in St. Louis, three years after the death of Michael Brown, celebrated the acquittal of yet another officer for shooting a black man by chanting “Whose streets? Our streets.” The wake continues.


I would like to thank the readers of this piece for Critical Inquiry, as well as W. J. T. Mitchell and Hank Scotch, for making this piece better than it otherwise would be (all faults remaining are, of course, my own). Some of the arguments here are developed at greater length in my e-book, The Appearance of Black Lives Matter (2017), available at Unless otherwise noted all translations are my own.

[1] On visual activism, see Global Activism: Art and Conflict in the 21 Century, ed. Peter Weibel (Cambridge, Mass., 2015).

[2] See Deen Freelon, Charlton D. McIlwain, and Meredith D. Clark, Beyond the Hashtags: #Ferguson, #Blacklivesmatter and the Online Struggle for Offline Justice (D.C., 2016), p. 21;

[3] Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (1958: Chicago, 1998), p. 199.

[4] Ibid.

[5] See Robert Bernasconi, “The Invisibility of Racial Minorities in the Public Realm of Appearances,” in Phenomenology of the Political, ed. Kevin Thompson and Lester Embree (Amsterdam, 2000), pp. 169–87; Danielle Allen, Talking to Strangers: Anxieties Of Citizenship since Brown v. Board Of Education (Chicago, 2004); and Kathryn T. Gines, Hannah Arendt and the Negro Question (Bloomington, Ind., 2014).

[6] See Alexander R. Galloway “Black Box, Black Bloc,” 12 Apr. 2010,,%20Black%20Box%20Black%20Bloc,%20New%20School.pdf

[7] In keeping with Critical Inquiry style, black is given in lowercase except when referring to Black Lives Matter.

[8] Tina Campt’s Listening to Images (Durham, N.C., 2017) appeared too late for me to integrate into this discussion but addresses similar issues.

[9] Jacques Rancière, “Ten Theses on Politics,” trans. Rachel Bowlby and Davide Panagia, Theory and Event 5, no. 3 (2001),

[10] Fred Moten, “The Case of Blackness,” Criticism 50 (Spring 2008): 205.

[11] W. E. B. Du Bois, Black Reconstruction: An Essay Toward a History of the Part Which Black Folk Played in the Attempt to Reconstruct Democracy in America, 1860–1880 (New York, 1935), p. 13.

[12] Angela Y. Davis, Abolition Democracy: Beyond Empire, Prisons, and Torture (New York, 2005), p. 50.

[13] Judith Butler, Notes on a Performative Theory of Assembly (Berkeley, 2015), pp. 26, 38, 75.

[14] Garnette Cadogan, “Walking While Black,” Literary Hub, 8 July 2016,

[15] Claudia Rankine, “The Condition of Black Life Is One of Mourning,” in The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race, ed. Jesmyn Ward (New York, 2016), p. 146.

[16] Cedric J. Robinson, Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition (Chapel Hill, N.C., 2000), p. 240.

[17] See Moten, “Not In Between: Lyric Painting, Visual History, and the Postcolonial Future,” The Drama Review 47 (Spring 2003): 127–48.

[18] Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, trans. Richard Philcox (New York, 1964), p. 4.

[19] Alessando Petti, Sandi Hillal, and Eyal Weizman, Architecture after Revolution (Berlin, 2013), p. 13.

[20] Alexander Weheliye, Habeas Viscus (Durham, N.C., 2014), p. 3. This definition does not seek to deny people their ancestry and history in the African diaspora, let it be noted.

[21] Alicia Garza, “A Herstory of the #BlackLivesMatter Movement,” The Feminist Wire. 7 Oct. 2014, See also Moten and Staphano Harney, The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study (Wivenhoe, 2013), p. 140.

[22] See Gilles Deleuze, “Postscript on the Societies of Control,” trans. pub., October 59 (Winter 1992): 3–7.

[23] See Nicholas Mirzoeff, The Right to Look: A Counterhistory of Visuality (Durham, N.C. 2011), pp. 48–76.

[24] [Anon], De Saint-Domingue. Moyen facile d’augmenter l’indemnité due aux colons de St-Domingue expropriés (Paris, 1825), p. 16.

[25] Walter Johnson, River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom (Cambridge, Mass., 2013), p. 168.

[26] See Sarah-Jane Cervanak, Wandering: Philosophical Performances of Racial and Sexual Freedom (Durham, N.C., 2014), pp. 66–67.

[27] See Mary-Francis Berry, “‘Reckless Eyeballing’: The Matt Ingram Case and the Denial of African American Sexual Freedom,” The Journal of African American History 93 (Spring 2008): 227–30.

[28] Quoted in ibid., p. 232.

[29] See Keith Lamont Peters, Appellant, v. State of Florida, Appellee. No. 4D11–607.

[30] bell hooks, Black Looks: Race and Representation (New York, 1992), p. 168.

[31] Quoted in Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation (Chicago, 2016), p. 156.

[32] See Eve Tuck and  K. Wayne Yang, “Decolonization Is Not a Metaphor,” Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education, and Society 1, no. 1 (2012): 1‐40.

[33] See Taylor, From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation, p. 77.

[34] See Shanyang Zhao “Toward a Taxonomy of Copresence,” Presence 12 (Oct. 2003): 445–55.

[35] Loretta Baldassar et al., “ICT-Based Co-Presence in Transnational Families and Communities: Challenging the Premise of Face-to-Face Proximity in Sustaining Relationships,” Global Networks 16 (Apr. 2016): 134.

[36] See Freelon, McIlwain, and Clark, Beyond the Hashtags, pp. 15–17.

[37] Deray Mckesson, “Ferguson and beyond,” The Guardian, 9 Aug. 2015,

[38] André Brock, “From the Blackhand Side: Twitter as a Cultural Conversation,” Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media 56, no. 4 (2012):537.

[39] Negar Mottadeh, #iranelection: Hashtag Solidarity and the Transformation of Online Life (Stanford,  Calif., 2015), p. 16.

[40] See Todd S. Purdum, “The Nation: Focus Groups?; To Bush, the Crowd Was a Blur,” New York Times, 23 Feb. 2003,

[41] Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California (Berkeley, 2006), p. 28.

[42] “L.A. Residents Plead With LAPD On Signs, Shirts: ‘Don’t Shoot, I’m Not Chris Dorner,’” Newsone, 12 Feb. 2013,

[43] Eugene Robinson, “I’m Black, Don’t Shoot Me,” Washington Post, 20 Feb. 2014,

[44] For a full account of the events at the scene, see Mirzoeff, “The Murder of Michael Brown: Reading the Grand Jury Transcript,” Social Text 126 (Spring 2016): 46–71.

[45] For more on the #Ferguson coverage on Twitter, see Deray Mckesson’s blog at

[46] See Lauren Williams, “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” Vox, 13 Aug. 2014,

[47] See Sarah Lazare, “Say Her Name: In Expression of Vulnerability and Power, Black Women Stage Direct Action With Chests Bared,” Common Dreams, 22 May 2015,

[48] On the selfie, see Mirzoeff, How To See The World: An Introduction to Images from Selfies to Self-Portraits, Maps to Movies and More (New York, 2016), pp. 29–69.

[49] See Marc Augé, Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity, trans. John Howe (New York, 1995).

[50] See Diana Taylor, The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas (Durham, N.C., 2003), pp. 20–23.

[51] IACP, “In Car Cameras,” p. 67,

[52] See Alexandra Juhasz, “How Do I (Not) Look? Live Feed Video and Viral Black Death,” JSTOR Daily, 20 July 2016,

[53] See “Michael Brown's Family Reacts to Art Exhibit on Son's Death,” CBS News, 15 July 2015,

[54] I have in mind here Eugène Atget’s Vues et types de la zone militaire de Paris  (1913), an album of photographs of the Paris underclass and their nonspaces.

[55] This simple tactic is derived from many more sophisticated contemporary art projects, such as the collaboration between Claudia Rankine and John Lucas in Citizen: An American Lyric, which removed the victim’s bodies from the infamous lynching photograph taken in Marion, Indiana in 1930; see Claudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric (Minneapolis, 2014), p. 91.

[56] Christina Sharpe, In the Wake: On Blackness and Being (Durham, N.C., 2016), p. 117.

[57] Andrew Schroedter, “Chicago tops in fatal police shootings among big U.S. cities,” Chicago Sun Times, 24 June 2016,

[58] See Todd Lighty and Steve Mills, “Judge: Using Taser, Dragging Coleman from Lockup Amounts to ‘Brute Force,’” Chicago Tribune, 14 Dec. 2015,

[59] See E. Fuller Torrey et al., “The Treatment Of Persons with Mental Illness in Prisons and Jails: A State Survey,” Treatment Advocacy Center, 8 Apr. 2014,

[60] Gilmore, Golden Gulag, p. 247.

[61] See Johnson, “The Carceral Landscape,” River of Dark Dreams, p. 209–43.

[62] See Christina Capecchi and Mitch Smith, “Officer Who Shot Philando Castile Is Charged With Manslaughter,” 16 Nov. 2016,

[63] See Onassis Foundation USA,  “Antigone in Ferguson - Onassis Festival NY - Antigone Now,”

[64] See Capecchi and Smith, “Officer Who Shot Philando Castile Is Charged With Manslaughter.”

[65] See Eli Saslow, “For Diamond Reynolds, Trying to Move Past 10 Tragic Minutes of Video,” Washington Post, 10 Sept. 2016,

[66] For the video, see Michael S. Schmidt and Matt Apuzzo, “South Carolina Officer Is Charged With Murder of Walter Scott,” New York Times, 7 Apr. 2015, The trial is reported in Alan Blinder, “Mistrial for South Carolina Officer Who Shot Walter Scott,” New York Times,5 Dec. 2016,

[67] See District Attorney’s Office, 26th Prosecutorial District of North Carolina, Mecklenburg Country, “The Keith Lamont Scott Death Investigation,” 30 Nov.2016,; hereafter abbreviated “KLS.”

[68] See Mirzoeff, “The Murder of Michael Brown.”

[69] Blinder, “Mistrial for South Carolina Officer Who Shot Walter Scott.”

[70] Matthew Vann and Erik Ortiz, “Walter Scott shooting: Michael Slager, ex-officer, sentenced to 20 years in prison” (Dec. 9, 2017),

[71] Simone Browne, Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness (Durham, N.C., 2015), p. 9.

[72] See Sharpe, In the Wake.