American Sociological Association

Podcast: Police Tactics Matter and Activism in a New Era

Police Tactics Matter

Washtington, DC, October 17, 2017--Police brutality has become a major part of the national conversation on race. You have seen the videos - Tamir Rice, Eric Garner. Philando Castile. Many others not caught on camera. The vast majority of vides that go viral show unarmed African-Americans - particularly young black men - being shot by police after stops that are later called into question. This was the catalyst for Black Lives Matter, a national movement with a message:  Please stop shooting innocent black people.

However, not everyone is convinced that police are acting in a way that is discriminatory or biased, a core belief that fuels the All Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter responses. After all, unarmed white kids get shot, too - such as Dylan Noble last year and Zachary Hammond the year before.

So do police act in a way that suggests racism is at play? Do the numbers suggest they target African-Americans? We talk to two researchers who have taken a deep dive into the data, looking at millions of police encounters. Their answer? Unequivocally yes.

Rory Kramer and Brianna Remster are professors in the Department of Sociology & Criminology at Villanova University. Their research, along with Camille Z. Charles (University of Pennsylvania), is published in Contexts Magazine in an article “Black Lives and Police Tactics Matter.

Activism in a New Era

Since the election, it might seem that more people are politically active than ever. Or at least since the 60s civil rights movement or the 70s anti-war movement. We have witnessed huge protests - the March for Science, the March for Equality and the March for Women, which was identified as  the largest single day protest in U.S. history. But it didn’t end there and we continue to see activism at every level, on the street, on social media, even in the corporate boardroom.

This is what many are calling the resistance. Hashtag the resistance. Be the resistance. I am the resistance. So who is the resistance? Our guest helps us answer that question.

Dana R. Fisher is a professor of sociology at the University of Maryland where she studies social movements and activism. She is part of a team that has been conducting field research into the various movements we are seeing take shape, interviewing activists taking part in various protests and determining their motivations. She is currently working on her forthcoming book titled “American Resistance.”


(This podcast was taped live when broadcast via WPFW 89.3FM. ASA is pleased to provide a sociological perspective on various topics. The points of view presented in this podcast are those of the featured individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASA or its membership.)