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Book description

Although racism has plagued the American justice system since the nation's colonial beginnings, private White Americans are taking matters into their own hands. From racist 911 calls and hoaxes to grassroots voter suppression and vigilante 'self-defense,' concerted efforts are made every day by private citizens to exclude Black Americans from schools, neighborhoods, and positions of power. Neighborhood Watch examines the specific ways people police America's color line to protect 'White spaces.' The book charts how these actions too often result in harassment, arrest, injury, or death, yet typically go unchecked. Instead, these actions are promoted and encouraged by legislatures looking to expand racially discriminatory laws, a police system designed to respond with force to any frivolous report of Black 'mischief,' and a Supreme Court that has abdicated its role in rejecting police abuse. To combat these realities, Neighborhood Watch offers preliminary recommendations for reform, including changes to the 'maximum policing' state, increased accountability for civilians who abuse emergency response systems, and proposals to demilitarize the color line.


‘This is an important and timely book. Professor Fields skillfully connects the current climate of 911 abuse and vigilante justice to America’s long history of racial fear and offers a compelling indictment of a criminal justice system that promotes such conduct. Required reading for racial justice and criminal justice reform advocates.’

Tracey Maclin - Professor of Law, Boston University School of Law

‘Neighborhood Watch is an important investigation into the fact that we continue to have white-dominated spaces in the post-civil rights United States of America. Fields' analyses of different aspects of this problem are persuasive. This book is a strong contribution to the scholarly literature, but so lucidly written that it will grab the attention of a general audience.’

Frank Rudy Cooper - Director, Program on Race, Gender & Policing, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Co-editor of Fight the Power!: Law and Policy Through Hip-hop Songs

‘Neighborhood Watch is a must-read for all who want to understand how space is racialized in the United States and how everyday white residents have repeatedly utilized their racialized understandings of these spaces - through 911, neighborhood watch programs, social media platforms, and more - to police the racial boundaries and hierarchies that a system of Jim Crow once explicitly regulated. Professor Shawn Fields deftly illustrates the interconnected ways in which governments promote and encourage racial violence and brilliantly exposes readers to the public-private partnership in enforcing the ‘color line’ in our nation.’

Angela Onwuachi-Willig - Dean, Boston University School of Law

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