Thursday, November 21, 2019

Fischer on the racial politics of morals enforcement

Anne Gray Fischer (Indiana University) has published " 'Land of the White Hunter': Legal Liberalism and the Racial Politics of Morals Enforcement in Midcentury Los Angeles," The Journal of American History 105:4 (March 2019), 868-84. From the introduction:

This essay excavates two critical dimensions of the postwar racial history of morals law enforcement through an examination of Los Angeles. First, the essay recovers midcentury processes of sexual liberalization in social science and legal reform, which shaped law enforcement authorities' 'reluctance' to pursue white women...while preserving police officers' discretionary power in morals law enforcement to disproportionately target black women. Second, the essay demonstrates how the city's growing black urban communal violence was touched off in part by this racial inequity in morals enforcement. In presenting a history of midcentury morals law reform alongside morals crackdowns and confrontations between black people and police officers in segregated Los Angeles, this essay exposes an understudied site of mounting police repression and black protest in a period of ascendant sexual liberalism. The racial inequity in morals policing--exacerbated by liberalizing morals laws--was a powerful, if heretofore unrecognized, factor in the many clashes between police and black residents that culminated in the 1965 communal violence in the black neighborhood of Watts.
Further information is available here.

--Mitra Sharafi