Critical Objects//Body Politics: Inflatable White Privilege





Topic: Police brutality against PoC

Device: Absurdity

Attribute(s): Wearable & Inflatable

Mood: Outrage

Police brutality is rampant within the United States, with police officers taking the life of a citizen, on average, every 7 hours. People of color (PoC), specifically Black Americans, are three times as likely to be assaulted and killed by police officers. Last year, there were more than 1100 people killed by the police, and far more seriously injured (source). On the day before I present this project to the class, police in Broward County, Florida pepper sprayed, tackled, and repeatedly punched a 15-year-old Black high school student, because he had picked up the cell phone of another child who was being arrested. This may be contrasted by the police’s ability to peacefully take into custody several white mass shooters. Thus, I felt compelled to make a statement on the absurd injustice that Black Americans face due to their skin color, or their lack of white privilege.

Inflatable White Privilege is an easily replicable statement piece that provides protection to the bodies of people of color.

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The first idea I had was to built a “police airbag,” that could provide genuine protection for PoC. The concept included rapid detonation and a strong material that could protect from physical assaults and tasers. However, the technology used in air bags is an explosive, which I didn’t feel comfortable working with, and building customizable, extremely durable clothing in the time frame didn’t seem feasible.

Thus, I decided to work more with the absurdity of the situation (that normal citizens need protection against the very people purporting to protect and serve them.) I was inspired by the tactical inflatables we had seen in class, and wanted to create something cheap, easy, and memorable, that could make a big visual impact.


I wanted to use easy to find materials, so I ended up using PVC ponchos (available for $5 at REI), duct tape, and a portable air pump like those used for blow up mattresses and floating toys. I considered welding the PVC together, but didn’t think that was a process readily available to people not at ITP.


My fiancee modelling the first version, late at night.

The visual effect was successful, and actually somewhat practical: the inflatable did provide some barrier to the wearer’s body. I wanted to also distribute instructions, like I had seen in the DIY gas masks and book shields in class, so I created pamphlets to accompany the demo.

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Caroline NeelComment