Beyond "Heartfelt Condolences"
A critical take on mainstream psychology's responses to anti-black police brutality
Bowleg, L., Boone, C. A., Holt, S. L., del Rio-Gonzalez, A. M., & Mbaba, M. (2022). Beyond "Heartfelt Condolences": A critical take on mainstream psychology's responses to anti-black police brutality. American Psychologist, 77(3), 362-380. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1037/amp0000899
Anti-Black police brutality in the United States is not a new problem, but at least a 400-year old one. Mainstream psychology has responded to this critical racial and social justice issue by conceptualizing it primarily as an outcome of police officers' social cognition (e.g., threat perceptions) or implicit racial biases. Such individualistic and cognitive perspectives, however, ignore the fundamental role of anti-Black structural racism in facilitating the ability of law enforcement to terrorize, brutalize, and kill Black people with impunity. As with the media and public attention, mainstream psychology has also tended to frame acts of anti-Black police brutality as outliers, or occasional lethal and spectacular events, rather than as a broad spectrum of routine acts that structure policing and police brutality as a world for Black people in the United States. Informed by critical psychology, and the critical theoretical frameworks of critical race theory, intersectionality, and Afro-Pessimism, the goal of this article is to critically engage with the topic of anti-Black police brutality. By critically engage, we mean expose and challenge the economic, social, and material power relations that disproportionately expose Black people to police brutality; and conceptualize police brutality not as a series of aberrant incidents, but as a structure that in essence constructs and reifies Blackness and Whiteness. We also introduce the Anti-Black Police Brutality Continuum, a conceptual framework of police brutality as a broad spectrum of routine manifestations of anti-Black structural racism, and criticize mainstream psychology's deferral of a critical and transformative response to anti-Black police brutality. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).