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June 12, 2020

Changing the Narrative

Changing the Narrative
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How do questions of race, justice, and equality transcend national borders? How is the past tied to the present? How do ideas that were once labelled ‘radical’ become mainstream?

In light of the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement for police reform and racial equality, I’m doing another special episode this week, featuring Dr. Esmorie Miller (@esmoriem), a Lecturer in Criminology at London South Bank University.

Esmorie has been looking at issues of race, justice, and policing for over 15 years, with a focus on young people. She looks at institutional policies around urban youth gangs; historical narratives on youth justice reform; policing surveillance in schools; and the role of race and gender in punishment. She has a forthcoming book on the role of race in youth justice, with a focus on the UK and Canada, so I wanted to speak with her partly about how and why BLM extends beyond the US borders.

But I also wanted to hear from Esmorie about how she, and other researchers in her field, have been working for years to change the narrative on racialised youth. As Esmorie says, the historical discourse around young people of color was long centered around an assumed deviance or reluctance, and that narrative has carried through to today. As she puts it, ‘the present is still tethered to the past.’ But by engaging with that history and understanding it, we might be able to challenge and change that narrative.

When Esmorie first started this work, she was told by supervisors that her research was sound, but too ‘radical.’ Now that the idea of systemic racism has become more mainstream, I wanted to hear from Esmorie on how and why understandings and norms shift, and how she sees this present moment.

Our conversation gets slightly academic at times, but there’s a lot of great stuff here, and I hope you learn as much as I did.


Policing Black Lives, by Robyn Maynard

Ghosts in the Schoolyard, bye Eve Ewing