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VIDEO: History Of Policing: How Did We Get Here?

In his book The Condemnation of Blackness, historian Khalil Gibran Muhammad lays out a historical argument for how Black people have been criminalized over 400 years in the United States. And he does so by telling parallel narratives about the history of policing in the North and the South.

These stories share one key feature: the use of brutal force to control Black Americans.

Looking at the broad sweep of police history and at attempted police reforms over the past 100 years, Muhammad concludes it is time to recognize that "police officers and police agencies are incapable of fixing themselves."

"And so the question that has to be asked in the wake of George Floyd — and I think this question is being asked and answered by more white people than I've seen in my lifetime is — do white people in America still want the police to protect their interests over the rights and dignity and lives of Black and, in too many cases, brown, Indigenous and Asian populations in this country?" he asks.

Our whole country is waiting to hear the answer to that question.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

John Poole is a senior visuals editor at NPR. He loves working with talented people and teams to create compelling stories that resonate with the 40 million people who visit NPR's digital platforms each month.
Ramtin Arablouei is co-host and co-producer of NPR's podcast Throughline, a show that explores history through creative, immersive storytelling designed to reintroduce history to new audiences.
Rund Abdelfatah is the co-host and producer of Throughline, a podcast that explores the history of current events. In that role, she's responsible for all aspects of the podcast's production, including development of episode concepts, interviewing guests, and sound design.
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