Surrounded by fully-stacked book shelves and coffee aroma at The Potter’s House in Northwest D.C., an engaged audience tuned in on Tuesday, March 13, to listen and discuss a difficult topic: the policing of African Americans.

Authors Angela J. Hattery and Earl Smith’s presented their book, The Policing of Black Bodies: How Black Lives Are Surveilled and How to Work for Change, which was first released December of last year.

Angela J. Hattery (left) and Earl Smith (right) present their book Policing Black Bodies at the Potter’s House Tuesday evening. (Courtesy Photo)

Policing Black Bodies goes beyond chronicling isolated incidents of injustice to look at the broader systems of inequality in our society—” the front cover of the book reads, “how they’re structured, how they harm Black people, and how we can work for positive change.”

“It’s the summer of 2016, and we’re literally writing about the shooting of unarmed Black men,” Hattery told the AFRO. “And in that one week in July… Alton Sterling was murdered, and Philando Castile was murdered.  It was all inside of a week.”

That was among one of the challenges of writing Policing Black Bodies, according to Hattery. “It’s a lot to hold. It was a very difficult book to write emotionally because it’s hard stuff.”

Hattery is a sociologist and serves as the Director of the Women & Gender Studies Program at George Mason University in Virginia. Smith is a Professor of Sociology and Director of the American Ethnic Studies Program at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. They have been colleagues for about 20 years and collaborated on multiple writing projects, including other books.

Declaring they wrote the book to “make people uncomfortable to disrupt stereotypes about Black bodies,” Hattery and Smith credit the Black Lives Matter movement for bringing national attention to tensions between Black people and the police.

Policing Black Bodies then presents urban riots and protests as a “logical response” to police’s treatment of Black communities.

The book then moves on to highlight mass incarceration, school-to-prison pipeline, the policing of trans and Black women’s bodies and the killing of unarmed Black men.

Smith and Hattery conclude Policing Black Bodies with a discussion of intersectionality, color-blind racism and a strong call to action.

Hattery, who is White, said that she has some concerns about resistance to her writing or talking about Black policing issues.

“It hasn’t happened yet, but I fully expect push back from White people,” Hattery added.  “The push back I expect from Black people is … ‘how could you write about something you haven’t lived?’”

Smith, who is African American, told the AFRO that supporting Hattery from a racial standpoint “isn’t an issue.”

“It’s the social support system to say, ‘You can write this,’” Smith said.

Smith said in addition to being confident, having a co-author who is honest about feedback is critical to ensuring the collaboration works.

“When we speak in different places, somebody will say, ‘Well, as a White person, how can you be writing about this?” Smith asked from Hattery’s point of view. “And the answer is because I can. I know this subject. I know this territory, and if they can’t handle that, that’s their problem,” Smith answered.

At the same time, Hattery said, “White people aren’t picking up a book called Policing Black Bodies.” In turn, some concern lies in how African Americans will receive the book.

“I’m always concerned that as a White person I’m not taking the microphone, that I am an ally—not the center of attention, that I am doing justice to the issue when it isn’t my lived experience,” Hattery said. “And I think that’s part of why the collaboration is critical.”