“They Were Looking at Us Like We Were Bad People”: Growing Up Policed in the Gentrifying, Still Disinvested City

  • Caitlin Cahill Pratt Institute
  • Brett G. Stoudt The Graduate Center of the City University of New York
  • María Elena Torre The Graduate Center of the City University of New York
  • Darian X Make the Road New York
  • Amanda Matles The Graduate Center, City University of New York
  • Kimberly Belmonte The Graduate Center, City University of New York
  • Selma Djokovic The Graduate Center of the City University of New York
  • Jose Lopez Make the Road New York
  • Adilka Pimentel Make the Road New York
Keywords: young people, broken-windows policing, gentrification, slow violence, criminalization, racial capitalism


In this essay we explore how the politics of global urban restructuring and broken windows policing collude to criminalize and dehumanize communities of color. Drawing upon the intergenerational participatory action research project, Growing Up Policed, our research centers young people of color’s intimate knowledge about the differentiated realms that violence is endured, felt and resisted in their everyday lives. Tracking the “heavy surveillance” of young people growing up in gentrifying, still disinvested New York City, we explore how the spectacle of criminalization obfuscates state violence as it justifies the displacement of communities of color. Our analysis traces how young people of color understand and challenge the “carceral continuum” (Sharpe, 2014), raising critical questions about witnessing, recognition, visibility, and erasure that may be relevant for the current political moment. To conclude, we call for investing in the community as part of imagining an emancipatory urban future.


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How to Cite
Cahill, C., Stoudt, B., Torre, M. E., X, D., Matles, A., Belmonte, K., Djokovic, S., Lopez, J., & Pimentel, A. (2019). “They Were Looking at Us Like We Were Bad People”: Growing Up Policed in the Gentrifying, Still Disinvested City. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 18(5), 1128-1149. Retrieved from https://acme-journal.org/index.php/acme/article/view/1733
Special Issue - Slow Violence (Guest Eds. Caitlin Cahill & Rachel Pain)