Spitting, and Squadcar Typography

Or: microaggression, and Microgramma.

At about the 3-second mark in the following video, we see an EMU police officer turn away from a black organizer and spit into the crosswalk. A moment later the camera moves past the word POLICE emblazoned on the side of a law enforcement vehicle.

A white person spitting in the presence of a black person is what may be called a microaggression. Harvard psychiatrist Chester Pierce coined the word in 1970 to describe denigrations that non-black Americans inflict on African Americans.

Perhaps as familiar as the microaggression of white spitting is Microgramma, the 1952 typeface we now know as Eurostile, whose bold capitals are used to set the words POLICE and SHERIFF on many law enforcement vehicles in Washtenaw County.

This symbolic act of spitting, and the particular styling of these typographic symbols, are linked as visual displays of hierarchy. In the first, a white subject communicates the disgust intrinsic to his sense of supremacy; while these thick, rigid capital letters of squadcar design are repeatedly deployed because they have become a trademark of superiority.


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