Since the 1920s automobile manufacturers have been touting the wonders of car travel.
The goal of the industry was to create this pervasive myth to sell more cars.
Through the 1940s, 50s and 60s owning a vehicle was aspirational, possible for the well-to-do, mostly white American consumer. Racism was structurally built in. Robert Moses leveled minority neighborhoods to build highways to make way for cars.
Sara Seo in Policing the Open Road: How Cars Transformed American Freedom, ” reveals how the rise of the automobile led us to accept – and expect – pervasive police power. As her book makes clear, “this radical transformation in the nature and meaning of American freedom has had far-reaching political and legal consequences.”
I wrote in this blog in 2020: Change Policing Of Our Cities, Starting With Traffic Enforcement
The NYTimes article below reveals the continuing racism built into car ownership and policing.
NYTimes December 15th, 2022
Andrew Ross and
Andrew Ross and Julie Livingston are New York University professors, members of NYU’s Prison Education Program Research Lab and authors of the book “Cars and Jails: Freedom Dreams, Debt, and Carcerality.
”Today, officers make more than 50,000 traffic stops a day. “Driving while Black” has become a major route to incarceration — or much worse.
When Daunte Wright was killed by a police officer in April 2021, he had been pulled over for an expired registration tag on his car’s license plate. He joined the long list of Black drivers whose violent and premature deaths at the hands of police were set in motion by a minor traffic infraction — Sandra Bland (failure to use a turn signal), Maurice Gordon (alleged speeding), Samuel DuBose (missing front license plate), and Philando Castile and Walter Scott (broken taillights) among them. Despite widespread criticism of the flimsy pretexts used to justify traffic stops, and the increasing availability of cellphone or police body cam videos, the most recent data shows that the number of deaths from police-driver interactions is almost as high as it has been over the past five years.”