American Sociological Association

Problems Establishing Identity/Residency in a City Neighborhood during a Black/White Police‐Citizen Encounter: Reprising Du Bois’ Conception of Submission as “Submissive Civility”

This article revisits W.E.B. Du Bois' (1943) conception of “The Submissive Man” in the context of a Black/White police‐citizen encounter. Du Bois argued that submission to democratic principles that place the well‐being of the whole over the individual is a Black American ideal, which offers a necessary counter‐balance to the individualism of the dominant White “Strong Man” ideal. We contrast this preference for “submission” and “cooperation” in dealing with racism with White American individualism, referring to these as “preferences” in conflicting Black/White “Interaction Orders”. In the police‐citizen encounter we analyze, what we call “Submissive Civility” by a Black citizen contributed to the use of excessive/unjustified force when it conflicted with the arresting officers' White expectations. Using Conversation Analysis, we document how the police enforced tacit and unconscious racial biases as if they were legal requirements, providing a framework for explaining how such tacit biases might be responsible for the prevalence of such incidents nationwide.


Anne W. Rawls, Waverly Duck, and Jason Turowetz





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