Thursday, March 24, 2016

Weinberg on Proof of Identity and Racial Policing in US History

Jonathan Weinberg, Wayne State University Law School, has posted Proving Identity:    
Harriet Bolling’s Certificate of Freedom (1851) (LC)
United States law, over the past two hundred years or so, has subjected people whose race rendered them noncitizens or of dubious citizenship to a variety of rules requiring that they carry identification documents at all times. Such laws fill a gap in the policing authority of the state, by connecting the individual’s physical body with the information the government has on file about him; they also entail humiliation and some degree of subordination. Accordingly, it’s not surprising that we’ve almost always imposed such requirements on people outside our circle of citizenship -- African-Americans in the antebellum South, Chinese immigrants, legally resident aliens. Today, though, there’s reason to think that we’re moving closer to a universal identity-papers regime.

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