Ida B. Wells and the solution to police violence

In my latest piece for The Washington Post, I discuss the need for the federal policies to end police violence in the United States, drawing inspiration from civil rights activist Ida B. Wells.


The recent string of acquittals in the police shootings of Samuel DuBose, Sylville Smith, and Philando Castile have brought to the surface, yet again, the systemic problem of police violence in the United States. The constant cycle of Black death at the hands of the police—and the near impossibility of securing a conviction for officers charged with these unlawful killings—underscores the urgent need for concrete solutions to alleviate a problem that has long plagued American society.

Given that the past half-century of police reforms have yielded such miserable results, it is time to reimagine the problem as one not of police but of extralegal killings of black Americans. In other words, as the problem of lynching.

As historian Isabel Wilkerson and several other scholars have pointed out, these killings represent the continuation of lynching culture in the United States. Today, black Americans die at the hands of police at a rate that is almost equivalent to the number of documented lynchings during the early 20th century.

[click here to read the entire article]