As part of the series Fictive Witness, sociologist Alex S. Vitale will explore the deep history of the American Presidency in relationship to the Black Lives Matter movement and their calls to “defund the police.” Historian Nikhil Pal Singh will respond to Vitale’s provocation to “abolish the presidency.”
Alex S. Vitale is Professor of Sociology and Coordinator of the Policing and Social Justice Project at Brooklyn College and a Visiting Professor at London Southbank University. He has spent the last 30 years writing about policing and consults both police departments and human rights organizations internationally. Prof. Vitale is the author of City of Disorder: How the Quality of Life Campaign Transformed New York Politics and The End of Policing. His academic writings on policing have appeared in Policing and Society, Police Practice and Research, Mobilization, and Contemporary Sociology. He is also a frequent essayist, whose writings have been published in The New York Times, Washington Post, The Guardian, The Nation, Vice News, Fortune, and USA Today. He has also appeared on CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, NPR, PBS, Democracy Now, and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.
Nikhil Pal Singh is Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis and History at New York University, and founding Faculty Director of the NYU Prison Education Program. A historian of the civil rights movement, foreign policy, and national security in the 20th-century United States, his most recent book is Race and America’s Long War (University of California Press, 2017). He is also the author of the award-winning Black Is a Country: Race and the Unfinished Struggle for Democracy (Harvard University Press, 2004), and author and editor with Jack O’Dell of Climin’ Jacob’s Ladder: The Black Freedom Movement Writings of Jack O’Dell. Singh’s essays and historian interviews have appeared in a number of popular venues, including New York Magazine, N+1, TIME, New Republic, The Intercept, The New Statesman, Boston Review, Open Source, and Code Switch.