Cult of Compliance – Arizona State Cops vs Ersula Ore

At the end of May, a black female professor named Ersula Ore at Arizona State University was walking across the street when she was arrested for jaywalking. By report, people cross at that site regularly to avoid construction and it is reasonably suspicious that a black woman was the person singled out by police.

She has been charged with a felony for kicking at him after she was flung to the ground. Police reviewed the file and said they did nothing wrong. There is a move-on petition (I have signed it). Here’s a local article on the story as the case is being re-reviewed in the wake of viral social media response. Then Huffington Post and CNN. There’s lots more.

I argue that along with race, which is central to the case I believe, we’ve got an example of the cult of compliance. We have made it possible to criminalize non-compliance. If you don’t obey police, they can physically hurt you, and if you defend yourself, you get charged with attacking the police. This happens all the time across America, especially to non-white people, but we rarely hear about it. The stories that make the news often involve disability, as the disability functions to absolve the victim of police violence, or at least complicate the narrative. In this case, we hear about the story because it involves a professor the means to leverage social media outrage, to speak for herself, and because professor does still command some respect in American discourse. An average black woman harassed by police is not news, and the new would not cover it.

We also only hear about it because someone called 911 on the COP who was being too aggressive. I’m grateful to that person.

Here’s the video. There’s also dash-cam video now if you follow that link.

This is the cult of compliance. If she just complies, gives her ID, is nicely respectful, she probably just gets a citation. Stand up for your rights, even as a professor on your own campus, and this is what happens.

As always, we can do better.

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