Noel Cazenave: “A Community Organizer Takes on White Vigilantism”

Read Noel Cazenave's interview in The New Yorker, A Community Organizer Takes on White Vigilantism by Eliza Griswold.


Noel Cazenave, a professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut and the author of “Killing African Americans: Police and Vigilante Violence as a Racial Control Mechanism,” sees such resistance as part of a long history of white vigilantism. “Racial oppression has always been maintained through violence,” he told me. In the nineteen-fifties and sixties, white Americans posted signs in so-called sundown towns telling Black people that they would be met with violence if they were found outdoors after dark. Cazenave believes that today’s white mobs see Black Lives Matter activists as mounting a challenge to white dominance similar to the one mounted during the civil-rights era. “They’ve been told by Donald Trump that these are the people who are coming to take away their basic value,” he said. “This is a literal invasion.” Although the white groups are extrajudicial, many have sought to align themselves with police. Cazenave finds this unsurprising. “Police and vigilante violence not only have common origins and functions, and not only do they often complement one another, but they are often comprised of the same people,” he said. “Racist neighborhood culture and racist police culture fuel one another in an intense cycle of hatred directed toward those deemed to be racial outsiders.”