As crowds in Minneapolis mourn and protest the death of George Floyd while in police custody, people continue to share recordings of the incident – as well as the viral video of the Feb. 23 killing of Ahmaud Arbery. These are the latest examples of a centuries-long American tradition of lynching black people without repercussion and publicly viewing the violence, explains Allissa Richardson, a professor at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

She describes how images of violence against black Americans have long been used to mobilize public opinion and exploit their deaths.

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Jeff Inglis

Politics + Society Editor

Ahmaud Arbery’s best friend, right, and his sister speak at a memorial event for Arbery on May 9, 2020. Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Why cellphone videos of black people’s deaths should be considered sacred, like lynching photographs

Allissa V. Richardson, University of Southern California, Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism

The US has a centuries-old tradition of killing black people without repercussion – and of publicly viewing the violence. Spreading those images can disrespect the dead and traumatize viewers.

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