“Historicizing ‘Racial Counsel’ ”

Francisco Vieyra, University at Albany, State University of New York (SUNY)

This paper introduces the concept of “racial counsel,” defining it as the racialized information, warnings, and advice that people of color pass on to other people of color to keep them safe, grounded, and positive in racist times. It also differentiates racial counsel from seemingly similar concepts in Sociology and elsewhere, such as armoring. Second, the paper historicizes racial counsel by exploring racial counsel in one specific domain of life – interactions with police (and other policing authorities) – and doing so across three time periods in black history. Specifically, the paper examines examples of racial counsel regarding interactions with police and other policing authorities among blacks during enslavement using slave narratives, among African Americans in the Jim Crow South using oral histories, and among African Americans in contemporary New York City using in-depth interviews and ethnographic fieldwork. The paper concludes by considering the fundamental continuities and breaks in this longue durée of racial counsel on policing as well as what racial counsel overall can help us understand about anti-racism resistance more broadly.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 63. Race-Making and the Socio-Legal Imaginary