Dancing with Death
This introductory chapter provides an overview of the racialized policing and governing practices in North St. Louis County, Missouri. In the suburbs of North St. Louis County, city governments discipline and police Black residents as a source of steady revenue. To put it in the way many residents do, municipalities view poor Black residents as “ATM machines,” to which they return time and again through multiple forms of predatory policing, juridical practices, and legalized violence. As part of this system and to hold on to the coveted yet hollow prize of local autonomy, Black leaders invest mightily in the white spatial imaginary of the suburbs by adopting a rhetoric of producing good citizens, promoting safety, protecting private property, and upholding norms of respectability. Narrated through questions of rights and suburban citizenship, the double bind of living as Black in North St. Louis County means that Black residents both suffer from, and pay for, the loss of economic and political viability that occurs when they simply occupy space. The systems that create and profit from this double bind rely on tropes of Black deviance, honed over the course of centuries; the illegibility of Black suffering; and questions concerning Black personhood.
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