W. E. B. Du Bois and the Right to Privacy

  • Karla F. C. Holloway


The construction of this event—the “perp walk”—is necessarily specular. The public’s gaze is its mediator: the camerafolk, the newscasters with microphones, and the alleged “perpetrators” of whatever misfortune brings them to this space between the camera’s gaze and our own populate the scene. It is also a subtextually racialized moment in its bodies as well as with its language. Although the accused have been walked into police stations and courthouses handcuffed—sometimes shackled—innumerable times before the event of the walk itself gained juridical review, it was not until the spectacle was used by policemen for white folks of a certain class—the “executive perp walks” referenced in Caldarola—that our national attention was turned to wonder at these accused. Labeled with the shortened verbiage that law enforcement has historically used for perpetrators and forced into the space more often occupied by those wearing “a sweatshirt over their head,” the appearance of executive whiteness (“Armani suits”) has focused our notice on these moments. Prior to this they were a visual sideswipe—barely detectable in our peripheral vision. Our familiarity with these moments and these folk was a reliable stand-in for the labor of a sustained glance, our mind’s eye easily recollecting the vignettes: men’s bodies paraded in a certain way—shackled sometimes, certainly handcuffed, the finale of the performance coming with an (often) white hand shoving a (usually) black head into the back of a police car.


Public Space Fourth Amendment Private Matter Social Ideology African American Culture 
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© Lovalerie King and Richard Schur 2009

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  • Karla F. C. Holloway

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