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Before i begin this blog post i feel i need to preface it with some important factors to keep in mind while reading it. I am a very proud and vocal member of the Democratic party and even though I’m about to share some harsh critiques about my party and some of its representatives, I feel even at their worst they are still miles ahead of any republican at their best. Now, i felt I had to say that because it was needed to put things in the proper context.
The country-wide debate of New York’s “Stop and Frisk” policy that unfairly targets African American and Latino males has uncovered something surprising about my fellow liberals. A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about the Trayvon Martin shooting and racial profiling titled “No Justice For Trayvon”. In that blog I highlighted how some whites perceptions of young African American males are based on a subconscious irrational fear that makes them see those males as potential criminals. This is true for both conservative and liberal whites although that perception may be slightly more common among conservatives. After a court ruled that NY’s “Stop and Frisk” policy was unconstitutional and a violation of American civil rights it sparked a huge national debate about the ruling and NY mayor Michael Bloomberg’s defense of the program. Those who supported the policy pointed to the low crime rate in the city which they attributed to Stop and Frisk. To me and a lot of African Americans it sounded like they were saying it’s ok to violate a young black male’s civil rights if it makes whites feel less fearful. That was a huge insult unto itself but what came after that was even more insulting. They tried to spin it in the media by saying the policy is in place to protect African American’s living in poor neighborhoods. African American’s translated this to mean they were racially profiling and violating our rights for our own good. Like a parent punishing a petulant child. To me that insult was beyond disgusting because segregationist used the exact same language in the 1950’s to defend Jim Crow. I felt it necessary to write this blog because there were some very important points that were never articulated in the media and among pundits. Watching panel discussions on MSNBC and CNN became tortuous for me. I found myself screaming my points to the tv like they could hear me. Since I’m not a cable tv news political pundit or host, my blog will have to suffice (lol).
The first and most important point I want to make is about those who think Stop and Frisk is necessary. In order to support stop and frisk you have to believe that race determines behavior. How else can you believe that stopping and searching African American’s and Latino’s almost exclusively is acceptable and necessary to prevent crime. This is a hard truth but it needs to be addressed so we can fix it and move on. I’m sure stop and frisk supporters do not want to ask themselves that question. Especially liberals and cable news pundits like those on MSNBC. Don’t get me wrong I love watching MSNBC because I like their reporting of political news and I’ve come to respect the on-air talent. One of my favorites is Chris Matthews the host of Hardball. He’s a moderate democrat with an astute political mind. His views usually mirror my own, but his coverage and views of Stop and Frisk has been very disappointing. Watching him interview pundits has exposed his support for the policy. Time after time he’s expressed fear of New York returning to the violent city it was in the 1970’s and 80’s. When one of his guest presented the idea of stopping more than just blacks and Latino’s Chris likened it to searching grandma at the airport for explosives. When Michael Smirconish guest hosted Chris’s Hardball he was a lot more vocal in his support for the policy. I naively thought progressives would see this Stop and Frisk policy for what it was. Racial profiling, unconstitutional, a severe violation of civil rights, a throw-back to Jim Crow, and just plain wrong. If equality, your personal ethics, and basic human fairness weren’t enough to convince you that this law is racist and unjust, take a look at the stats and ask yourself is this an effective use of police time and resources. According to a study done by the Center For Constitutional Rights during the year 2011 NYPD officers stopped and frisked a total of 636,288 people. Out of those 636,288 stops, 574,483 were African American and Latino. That’s a shocking 87%. Out of those 574,483 minorities only 2% were found to have contraband. TWO PERCENT!!!!!! Under any other circumstances this program would have been rejected years ago due to it’s ineffectiveness.
When you take an objective look at the overwhelming evidence against Stop and Frisk you have to ask yourself why is mayor Bloomberg fighting so hard to keep this in place and why are some white liberals like Chris Matthews and Michael Smirconish vocally supporting the policy or at the very least why aren’t they vocally advocating for its demise. I think the answer can be found in my Trayvon Martin blog titled “No Justice For Trayvon”. They see all young black males as potential criminals, and Stop and Frisk placates this irrational fear. I’m not saying these people are intentional racist. I believe they’ve been conditioned to think about young black males in that way. Their subconscious has made this connection and every crime committed by a young black male reinforces that belief. It’s very disappointing to see so many of my fellow democrats quietly supporting this vile version of institutionalized racism knowing it dehumanizes an entire race of people. Extremely disappointing. Unfortunately this race behavior linkage is perpetuated by the language we use when talking about inner city crime and violence. When we use terms like “the black community” it lumps all blacks together. Even the president has made this mistake. He said we need to address the crime and violence problem within the black community. But this problem mainly exist in the inner city. So instead of lumping all blacks together, he should have said we need to address the crime and violence happening in the inner city. I do not live in the inner city and I have never been involved in any crime. I’m a college educated law abiding citizen who lives on the coast of North Carolina. I have absolutely nothing in common with a violent gang member hundreds of miles away in Detroit. But since we share the same skin color I’m treated like a suspected criminal and I’m supposed to accept that. It’s ridiculous and extremely frustrating.
I’d like to share one more observation that no one else has brought up. The Stop and Frisk policy was built on a supreme court ruling that relaxed the rules for search and seizure when an officer believes a suspect may have a gun. Before this ruling law enforcement could not stop and search random citizens without a clear and articulatable reason. But Bloomberg found a way around the 4th amendment by using that supreme court case. He argued that NY police could stop and search anyone they wanted to and justify it by saying they thought the person had a firearm. My question is why aren’t the NRA (National Rifle Association) out lobbing to end Stop and Frisk? It goes against the very rights they say they are protecting. The right to own a firearm and the right to carry a firearm without being searched by police hoping to find and confiscate a legally owned firearm. The lack of action from their organization shows an obvious racial prejudice in the way they choose issues to speak out against. I sent this question to the head of the NRA but got no response in return. The lack of response makes me think my suspicions are valid.
As a result of discriminatory policing practices like stop and frisk, New Yorkers feel as if their communities are under siege. To learn more about the human impact of these practices, visit www.stopandfrisk.org.
A few weeks after I published this blog post I got the chance to ask MSNBC show host Chris Matthews where he stands on Stop and Frisk. In my blog post I stated that he seemed to support Stop and Frisk. It was very easy to draw this conclusion because he never condemned the policy and never once called it unconstitutional. Instead he would share his fear of New York’s crime rate returning to the very high levels the city had in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Here’s a link to read his response: http://sociallyurban.com/reply-headlines/chris-matthews-response/