The Zoom to Prison Pipeline

The Zoom to prison pipeline is an emergent internet term that talks o how Zoom (a stand in for larger the video conferencing turn with the pandemic) resuscitates older anxieties regarding policing in America which disproportionately targets black communities and the technologies that aid in this racialized violence. These anxieties have come to a head in the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests and the resulting police crackdowns. Recently, in El Paso, Texas, cops turned up at the house of a 12 yr old black student who was seen flaunting a toy gun in his zoom class. The teacher sent a video recording of the class to school authorities: who then called the cops on the black student, and suspended him from school. The records claimed that he brought along “a facsimile of a firearm to school” and thus demanded disciplinary action. While the world has been debating proximity and distance, materiality and immateriality for our digital eras, for black people, asking what constitutes an object, what its image, and what a toy becomes irrelevant. It also seems pointless to ask what is an actual material space, what a digital space, or what it means to do classes from one’s home. Even a fake gun in a digital classroom is threatening enough for the white population – it conjures horrific visions of gang violence, retribution or black rebellion. Aside from questions of Zoom classroom ethics, the zoom to prison pipeline compounds existing fears of surveillance and its targeting of black communities; it notes how the seemingly protected nurturing spaces of the class or home have come under constant scrutiny, ready to be served as incriminating evidence before a hostile policing system.