Black Bodies : The Realm Of Surveillance Essays

Black Bodies : The Realm Of Surveillance Essays

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In what is to follow I will be exploring the ways in which Black bodies become visibly invisible in the realm of surveillance. To do so, I will consider three main ideas. First, Black bodies that are attempting to travel are read as suspicious and potentially dangerous in the security theater of airports and are thus determined to be more deserving of scrutiny than White bodies. An example of how this is acted out is the process of targeting Black peoples’ hair for searches. Next, Black bodies, more specifically Black female bodies, perform the role of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents which is emblematic of state power, but is contradictory to how Black people are treated in the same context. This idea will be flushed out using the construction of TSA employees in popular media. Finally, Black bodies are made an “absented presence” (McKittrick, 2006, 99), in the ways that geographies are constructed in the Canadian context. The result of this idea is that Black bodies are portrayed in a way that normalizes heightened security practices used against them. The purpose of this paper, then, is to show that surveillance practices unfairly burden Black individuals and how the tendency to do so reveals structural inequalities that are embedded in systems of surveillance.
Security Theater
In the context of the airport, security theater refers to the staging practices of security, the theatrical performance passengers must perform, and how both of these are bound within the zone of security and safety and the War on Terror (Browne, 2015, 137). This context is important to start with because within this environment the bodies of Black people are read as more dangerous and suspicious than White bodies. An ex...

... middle of paper ... inherently more dangerous and suspicious than White people. Conversely, Black bodies are emblematic of agents of the state in their role as TSA workers. This creates a puzzling atmosphere whereby Black people are responsible for upholding the very practices that underhandedly impact themselves. Further, the ways that Black people are written out of the geographies of Canada sets the stage for normalizing the otherwise questionable treatment of Black people. All of this contributes to an environment that works in a self-fulfilling way. Black bodies are constructed in particular ways, which makes them more visible in and to surveillance practices. However, this relative visibility is misleading. That is, Black bodies become invisible in these structures because the image that is created is not reflective of the reality that constitutes the Black experience or body.

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