EM and Race EM and the Surveillance State

EM and the Legacy of Surveillance of Black Bodies

In this powerful piece Malkia Cyril, Director of the Center for Media Justice, places electronic monitoring in an historical context-as part of the technologies that represent the legacy of the surveillance of Black bodies.  Malkia situates electronic monitoring, especially with GPS tracking capacity, as a kindred force to facial recognition software, license plate readers, Stingrays, drones and street cameras-part of the technology that controls and punishes poor people, that disproportionately targets Black and brown folks, that facilitates the extension of mass incarceration into households and communities of color.  As Malkia puts it, “If you have decided to stand on the side of history that finds safety and belonging in the liberation of all life on the planet – then you will oppose the expansion of mass incarceration through electronic monitoring.”

To date, little research has been done to quantify the disproportionate use of EM on people of color. Yet we have the stories and reports that tell us about the extensive use of electronic monitoring on juveniles of color in Chicago and the Bay Area. We have data from Homeland Security that reveal that at any given moment about 20,000 immigrants are on some kind of electronic surveillance (mostly EM) and that most of these are folks fleeing violence in Central America-out of the frying pan into the fire of the surveillance state, as Jean-Pierre Shackelford puts it into: “slavery, 21st century electronic style.” Part of the mission of Challenging E-Carceration is to uncover more of these stories and link them to hard data to paint an ever clearer picture of the historical location of EM in the realm of racialized surveillance.

Here is the link to Malkia’s piece: https://centerformediajustice.org/2017/06/20/malkia-cyril-will-harbor-fight-police-violence-demand-digital-sanctuary/

Malkia’s piece also grew out of the work done by the Movement for Black Lives in their policy demand document: “A Vision for Black Lives.” One of the key sections of this document, the demand for an End to the Mass Surveillance of Black Communities and the End to the Use of Technologies that Criminalize and Target Our Communities,” has an even more detailed account of this technology of surveillance and the impact of surveillance historically on Black communities.

About the author

James Kilgore

James Kilgore is an activist , writer and educator based in Urbana, Illinois. He is a Soros Justice Fellow for 2017-18. His project, Challenging E-Carceration, focuses on electronic monitoring in the criminal legal system.