Friday, October 21, 2016

Sorry, Conservatives: Justice Thomas Does Not Deserve Special Tribute in The Smithsonian's African American History Museum

Clarence thomas

 

 

While the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) opened to rave reviews, one group of Americans are upset – conservatives.  Why?  Because the museum does not specifically honor Justice Clarence Thomas.

This allegation is, to put it mildly, totally without merit.  Here are four reasons why.

  1. Honoring Thomas Would Detract from the Museum’s Focus

I don’t think that the museum’s conservative critics have actually visited the museum.  If they had, they would see that the museum has a particular design and focus. 

My biggest takeaway from my visit to the museum is that it was trying to counter what has been called the “Great Man” theory of history.  Under this theory, history only changes when “great” people do things.  However, more recently, historians have rejected this theory in order to focus more on people and movements. 

It was clear to me that the creators of this museum were trying to give visitors a glimpse into the lives of everyday African Americans throughout history.  There are numerous quotes and artifacts from ordinary African Americans highlighting their stories, their hopes, and their dreams. 

Despite the museum’s focus on everyday people, some individuals do get special recognition.  There is a statue of Phillis Wheatley.  There is a brief film about the efforts of Ida B. Wells, W.E.B. DuBois, and Booker T. Washington to fight for change in the early twentieth century.  There is a display case featuring the dress Rosa Parks was sewing the day she was arrested.  There is also a sacred space featuring the casket of Emmit Till. 

Even though there are some spaces honoring specific individuals, as you slowly move through the main exhibit, these “great” pieces are few and far between.  The majority of the exhibit focuses on items and issues that mattered to the daily lives of average African Americans.  For that reason, there aren’t very many opportunities to single out particular African Americans for “great man” or “great woman” treatment. 

Given the design and focus of the museum, I don’t think that Thomas was “left out” because of his views.  I think that the museum is simply not set up in a way to honor every significant African American that ever lived. 

 

  1. Honoring Thomas Doesn’t Make Sense from a Historical Standpoint

Jackie Robinson was the first African American to play major league baseball.  Who was the second?  

Jesse Owens won a gold medal at the 1936 Olympics in a show of strength against Hitler.  Who took the silver?

Madam C.J. Walker was the first African American millionaire.  Who was the second?

My point here is that history makes special note of those that are the first to break a barrier.  However, we generally don’t focus as much on those who come after.  So, why would we want to take special pains to celebrate the second African American on the Supreme Court?  The logic doesn’t follow.  Thomas’ status as a “second,” rather than a “first,” is a reason apart from his conservative views to deny him special recognition.   

 

  1. Honoring Thomas Doesn’t Make Sense from a Legal Standpoint

Though I’ve never done so, I’d imagine that when planning a museum, the point is to highlight excellence in a particular field.  If this is the case, Thomas does not meet the criteria.  Thomas is not widely respected in legal circles.  In fact, a recent book discussed the five worst justices of all time.  Thomas was the only current justice to be “honored” in the book. 

Moreover, one of the most important functions of an appellate judge is to ask tough questions that will push the attorneys to defend their arguments. 

In the past ten years, Justice Thomas has asked exactly one question. 

It is true that some judges prefer not to pepper attorneys with constant questions.  However, in appellate circles, it’s rare indeed to ask one question per decade.  Thomas has tried to justify his silence, but the fact is that being an outlier in this area doesn’t help the argument that Thomas is an outstanding jurist.

Moreover, Thomas has some truly odd beliefs about the constitution.  Thomas is the only current justice who argues that the Commerce Clause – that part of the Constitution that allows Congress to regulate goods that travel between states – cannot extend to practices that, though carried out in one state, have a substantial impact on interstate commerce.  To give you an idea of how unusual Thomas’ view is, even Scalia, the conservative stalwart, wrote that the constitution would allow this. 

When examining Thomas from a purely legal standpoint, he is not incompetent, but there doesn’t appear to be any reason why he merits special recognition. 

 

  1. Honoring Thomas Doesn’t Make Sense from a Racial Standpoint

Again, when building a museum that honors and celebrates African American history and culture, I’d venture that the museum would focus primarily on those that have helped African Americans fight racism in this nation.  Thomas fails this simple test.   

To be fair, I do not think that Clarence Thomas hates African Americans.  He has, on several occasions, pointed out racial realities that his colleagues have missed.  In United States v. Fordice, he spoke out forcefully in support of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).  In Missouri v. Jenkins, he gave the Court a forceful rebuke when he said, “It never ceases to amaze me that the courts are so willing to assume that anything that is predominantly black must be inferior.”  In Virginia v. Black, he disagreed with the Court that cross burning should be protected speech and took great pains to explain to the majority, in a way that perhaps only a Black man of his background could, the history and horror of cross burnings. 

But these flirtations with blackness are all too rare.  When the rubber meets the road, Thomas invariably votes with the bloc that is against racial progress.  He has voted against affirmative action at every opportunity.   He voted against schools being able to use racial methods to integrate.  He voted to destroy important provisions the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  In fact, Thomas would have gone even farther than the majority in gutting the Act.

In short, with a few exceptions, Thomas’ voting record on racial issues has brought little for African Americans to celebrate.   While he may not hate African Americans, he’s done next to nothing to remove the racial barriers that harm us.  At best, Thomas is, as the young people would say, a “frenemy.”    At worst, he is an active collaborator who is building racial barriers rather than knocking them down.  Neither view seems to justify special recognition in a museum dedicated to African American progress.

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In the end then, the conservative furor over the “failure” to honor Thomas at the new museum is rooted not in reality, but white privilege.  It is the height of privilege to tell people of color whom they should honor, respect, or admire.   Even if the refusal to honor Thomas was based on his conservative views – and I don’t believe it was – African Americans can honor whoever we want, however we want, and in any manner we wish.  It is not the job of conservative whites or their black lackeys to tell us that we’re doing it wrong.

Perhaps instead of focusing on what is not in the museum, conservatives would do well to focus on what is there – the story of a people that chose not to be crushed by a horrible history of slavery and segregation, but rather to continue to live and love in spite of the racial barriers in the path.  In fact, if conservatives visited the museum and took the time to really understand African American history, perhaps they wouldn’t remain committed to making new barriers for us to overcome. 

But no matter.  One day, we’ll defeat these new obstacles too.

I’m pretty sure our story will be told in the NMAAHC when we do. 

October 21, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 17, 2016

Book Review: The Headscarf Debates: Conflicts of National Belonging

The human need to belong to a community. That is the theme that runs through The Headscarf Debates: Conflicts of National Belonging. Standing out from the multitude of binary examinations of the Muslim headscarf as liberal or authoritarian, liberating or misogynist, this book asks the more important human question: what do the headscarf debates tell us about whom we allow into our political community.

Acknowledging the agency of Muslim women in the different meanings they attribute to the headscarf – multiple modernities, liberal self-expression, a claim to dignity denied to Muslim immigrant groups, or simply covering up one’s messy hair – the book avoids the common trap of viewing Muslim women through the prism of a mere piece of cloth. Instead, the authors use the so-called “headscarf debates” as an interpretive tool to explore how these debates revisit, reaffirm, and potentially rearticulate the meaning of national belonging in four countries – France, Turkey, the Netherlands, and Germany.

The book situates the topic within the contentious, longstanding debates between multi-culturalism and assimilationism gripping Western and Eastern nations experiencing transformative demographic changes. Notably, the discourse is not analyzed through “Muslim versus non-Muslim” actors’ views of the headscarf, but rather how existing discourses are employed by politicians, government officials, and activists of various religious backgrounds to reaffirm, rearticulate, and transform national narratives of belonging.

The full book review can be downloaded at: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2850068

October 17, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 13, 2016

What Trump’s Supreme Court Pick Would Mean for People of Color

Trump scalia Collage

 

Roughly 120 million votes will be cast for president this November.   And while each of these votes matters, the most important vote this election – especially for those who care about racial progress – is the ninth vote on the Supreme Court of the United States. 

Donald Trump has promised to fill the vacant seat with a jurist “in the mold” of the late Justice Scalia.   Those who care about racial justice cannot allow this to happen. 

The Role of the Supreme Court 

The Supreme Court’s primary responsibility is to interpret the Constitution and the laws of the United States. The duty to interpret is critical because the Constitution is not always clear.  For instance, the constitution states, “No person except a natural born citizen . . . of the United States . . . shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty five years, and been fourteen Years a resident within the United States.”  The numerical requirements regarding age and residency are pretty clear.  But what does it mean to be a “natural born citizen”?  Does a person born in Canada to an American mother and Cuban father meet the requirement?    When parts of the constitution can be read in more than one way, it is the Court that decides how the law should be interpreted. 

Interpretation, however, is more art than science.  Different judges interpret laws differently based on their backgrounds and beliefs.  So, two judges looking at the exact same case could reach different conclusions.     

The Supreme Court and Race

When it comes to race, interpretation is particularly crucial.  Interpretation is the difference between allowing “separate but equal” facilities in Plessy v. Ferguson and outlawing segregation in Brown v. Board of Education.   The Constitution did not change in the nearly sixty years between those cases, but the Court that was interpreting the Constitution did. 

In the years since Brown, however, the Court has changed again.   Affirmative action programs in universities are in great peril.  For over forty years, the Court has frustrated the efforts of public schools to integrate their classrooms.  The Court has often refused to acknowledge racial bias in the criminal justice system.  The Court has narrowed the scope of important civil rights legislation.  In all, since Brown, the Court has not been friendly to racial claims.

The best (or worst) example of the court’s racial hostility occurred just three years ago.  In Shelby County, the Court was asked to consider the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  The VRA had been passed to prevent covered jurisdictions from dreaming up new ways to keep people of color from voting.  A wealth of evidence showed that nearly fifty years after the VRA, people of color still faced barriers when voting.  Nevertheless, the Court gutted important provisions of the VRA, rendering it mostly ineffective.   Within days of the Court’s decision, Texas and North Carolina passed restrictive voting laws intended to harm people of color.  While lower federal courts have since found those laws unconstitutional, if the Supreme Court had not opened the door in Shelley, these laws would not have been passed in the first place. 

Why the Next Justice Matters

The next Supreme Court justice matters because that justice will decide the balance of power on the Court for the foreseeable future.   

Prior to Scalia’s death, of the nine justices on the Court, four were conservatives - Scalia, Roberts, Alito, and Thomas.   These four almost never voted in favor of a law that would benefit people of color.  There were also four liberals on the Court – Ginsberg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan.  These four tended to vote in a more racially progressive fashion.  The ninth justice, Justice Kennedy, was the “swing vote,” as he sometimes voted with the Scalia group and sometimes voted with the Ginsberg group. 

The Scalia vacancy is an opportunity to add a fifth justice to the Court’s progressive bloc.  If this happens, for the first time since 1971, the Supreme Court will have a 5-4 progressive majority.   With this majority, the Court would be free to interpret laws in a racially friendly manner.  On the other hand, if Scalia’s seat is filled by a conservative, the Court would have a solid 5-4 majority against racial progress.  

But there’s more:  The average Supreme Court justice serves for sixteen years, but some have served for nearly forty years.  Also, Justice Breyer is 78.  Justice Kennedy is 80.  Justice Ginsberg is 83.  Any of the three – or all of the three - could decide to retire at any time over the next four to eight years.  So, the next president will not only be able to fill Scalia’s seat, but might also be able to fill one, two, or even three additional seats. 

If there are more retirements, the conservative majority on the Court could be 6-3 or even 7-2. 

What’s So Bad About Justice Scalia?

Donald Trump has said that if he is elected, he will fill the vacant seat with a justice “in the mold of Scalia.”  The thought of another Scalia on the Court (or two or three or four Scalias, if Trump gets to make multiple picks) should terrify all people that care about racial progress.   Why?  Because Scalia was an originalist.  When interpreting the Constitution, originalists believe that the intent of the those that wrote the Constitution is the most important factor.  Since many of those that wrote the Constitution owned slaves, an originalist point of view is generally not a winning one for people of color.  (However, to be fair, Scalia was consistent.  He didn’t think that women or LGBTQ+ people had any rights under the constitution either.)   Here are some samples of Scalia’s racial thinking:

  • On Affirmative Action at the University of Texas – “There are those who contend that it does not benefit African Americans to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a slower-track school where they do well.”
  • On the Voting Rights Act – “Whenever a society adopts racial entitlements, it is very difficult to get out of them through the normal political processes.”

Clearly, Justice Scalia was no friend to people of color.  Now, imagine another Scalia on the Court.  In fact, imagine two or three.  Imagine all three Scalias sitting next to the three current conservative justices.  Imagine all six of them sitting there together for the next twenty years.   Finally, imagine how this Court would rule on racial issues in those years.    We would have a Supreme Court that would gleefully invalidate laws intended to help people of color.  That same Court would be more than happy to keep laws that hurt us.  In these years, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and affirmative action would likely be destroyed. 

We cannot let this happen.

If we lose the Court in this election, because of the length of time justices serve and the number of vacancies that could happen, it would take years to change the conservative court back to a liberal one.  It has been forty-five years since the Court last had a progressive majority.   It wouldn’t be irrational to say that it could take another forty-five years – or more – to build a progressive majority on the Court after a Trump victory. 

The Takeaway

Most of the racial progress we take for granted today was either directed by Supreme Court decisions or approved by the Court. Legislatures can pass the most progressive laws ever seen, but if the Supreme Court invalidates them, it is all in vain.  So, we must have a Supreme Court with justices that are willing to validate the laws that we voted, protested, marched, boycotted, and otherwise struggled to put in place.   

So, this election, remember:  We’re not just voting for the next four years.  We’re voting for the next forty. 

October 13, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 7, 2016

Why The Supreme Court Justices Need to Visit the National Museum of African American History

African american museum

 

Last month, the newest Smithsonian museum, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, opened in Washington, DC.  Demand for the museum is so high that tickets are sold out until 2017.  Reports indicate that the building can’t accommodate the number of visitors. 

I visited the museum last week.  It is nothing short of amazing.  As an African American, I couldn’t help but wish that all Americans could visit the museum to learn about the role African Americans played in this country’s journey.  As an African American lawyer, I couldn’t help but wish that all lawyers and judges in this nation would be required to tour the museum to help them to improve their reasoning when they encounter racial issues.    

Law and history are understandably entwined. While history often plays a role in judicial decisions, in far too many cases, the Supreme Court has chosen to ignore the history of racism in this nation.  Even worse, certain justices refuse to acknowledge that the legacy of racism continues to impact the lives of African Americans to this day.  The justices’ twisted understanding of African American history has led it to make decisions that are harmful to African Americans.  

Starting in the 1980s, a more conservative Court began to chip away at the gains made during the Civil Rights Movement.  In 1987, the Court heard McClesky v. Kemp, in which a Black man argued that the death penalty in Georgia was unconstitutional due to its racial bias.  While McClesky contended that Georgia’s racial history should be considered, the majority rejected his argument.  The dissenters countered, “For many years, Georgia operated openly and formally precisely the type of dual system the evidence shows is still effectively in place. The criminal law expressly differentiated between crimes committed by and against blacks and whites, distinctions whose lineage traced back to the time of slavery.”  After chronicling more than a century of racially discriminatory Georgia laws, the dissenters stated, “[I]t would be unrealistic to ignore the influence of history in assessing the plausible implications of McCleskey’s evidence.”   The dissenters’ willingness to consider history unsurprisingly led them to reach a different outcome.

In City of Richmond v. Croson, Richmond, a 1989 case, Virginia was sued after implementing an affirmative action program to benefit non-white contractors.  The majority held that the program was unconstitutional, as there was no proof of racial discrimination.  In his dissent, Justice Thurgood Marshall attacked the majority’s refusal to consider Richmond’s racial history, stating, “[T]he majority downplays the fact that the city council had before it a rich trove of evidence that discrimination in the Nation's construction industry had seriously impaired the competitive position of businesses owned or controlled by members of minority groups. It is only against this backdrop of documented national discrimination, however, that the local evidence adduced by Richmond can be properly understood. The majority's refusal to recognize that Richmond has proved itself no exception to the dismaying pattern of national exclusion which Congress so painstakingly identified infects its entire analysis of this case.”   As Justice Marshall indicated, ignoring history can both affect and “infect” a court’s decision making process.

In the 2003 case of Grutter v. Bollinger, the plaintiff alleged that the admissions program at the University of Michigan law school was racially biased against whites and therefore unconstitutional.  The Court disagreed and held that public universities could use race as a factor in their admissions processes under certain conditions.  But Justice O’Connor’s majority opinion held an interesting caveat.  After noting that it had been twenty-five years since the Court first approved affirmative action, she wrote, “We expect that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today.”   In her dissent, Justice Ginsberg disagreed, stating, “[I]t was only 25 years before [allowing affirmative action] that this Court declared public school segregation unconstitutional, a declaration that, after prolonged resistance, yielded an end to a law-enforced racial caste system, itself the legacy of centuries of slavery. It is well documented that conscious and unconscious race bias, even rank discrimination based on race, remain alive in our land, impeding realization of our highest values and ideals.”   So, the majority opinion’s ignorance of history lead it to impose an artificial limit on the existence of racism.  By contrast, the dissent’s embrace of history led it to reject that approach.   

In 2007, the Court decided Parents Involved.  The court considered whether public school districts could use race to assign students as a means to achieve racial integration.  For the plurality, Chief Justice Roberts wrote, “Before Brown, schoolchildren were told where they could and could not go to school based on the color of their skin. [T]he way to achieve a system of determining admission to the public schools on a nonracial basis, is to stop assigning students on a racial basis. The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”   In his dissent, Justice Stevens forcefully pushed back on this idea, writing: “The first sentence in the concluding paragraph of his opinion states: ‘Before Brown, schoolchildren were told where they could and could not go to school based on the color of their skin.’ This sentence reminds me of Anatole France’s observation: ‘The majestic equality of the law, forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal their bread.’ The Chief Justice fails to note that it was only black schoolchildren who were so ordered; indeed, the history books do not tell stories of white children struggling to attend black schools.  In this and other ways, The Chief Justice rewrites the history of one of this Court’s most important decisions.”  Again, a full understanding of history made the difference in a legal decision.

The most glaring example of the Court’s attempts to rewrite racial history came in the 2013 case of Shelby County.  In Shelby, the Court was asked to considered the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  In evaluating the case, the majority noted that the Act was passed due to a history of rampant racial discrimination in voting laws.  However, immediately after reciting this history, Chief Justice Roberts wrote, “But history did not end in 1965.”    The Court proceeded to find that based on current trends, including the fact that African American voter registration has grown exponentially in the last forty years, certain portions of the Act were unconstitutional.  In her dissent, Justice Ginsberg countered, “There is no question . . . that the covered jurisdictions have a unique history of problems with racial discrimination in voting. Consideration of this long history, still in living memory, was altogether appropriate. The Court criticizes Congress for failing to recognize that “history did not end in 1965.”  But the Court ignores that ‘what’s past is prologue.’ And ‘those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’”  Justice Ginsberg was able to use history to reach a result that would have helped Black voters.   The majority’s refusal to address that history resulted in a new batch of laws aimed at minimizing the Black vote.

As these cases show, failure to understand our past impacts our ability to understand the present.  Moreover, refusing to acknowledging the role of racism in America’s past and present keeps judges from rendering decisions that help people of color. African Americans have achieved many legal victories during our time in this country, from the abolition of slavery to Civil Rights Movement.  But in order to understand the significance of these legal victories, one must understand the history of the people that fought for them. To paraphrase Frederick Douglas, if you don’t understand our struggle, you can’t fully appreciate our progress.  And those who don’t appreciate our progress certainly won't help us further it.

October 7, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Why Stop and Frisk Matters to Communities of Color

Stop and frisk

Source: New York Magazine

 

In this week’s presidential debate, the candidates sharply disagreed about the legal status of the stop and frisk doctrine.   The debate sparked a renewed interest in stop and frisk.  This article will explain what stop and frisk is and why people of color should care.

 

What is Stop and Frisk?

To truly understand stop and frisk, we have to step back to understand the Fourth Amendment.  The Fourth Amendment states, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”  Under the literal interpretation of the amendment, an officer must have a warrant before searching or arresting a person.  But over the years, the Supreme Court has interpreted the amendment to create multiple exceptions to the warrant requirement.  However, even under the exceptions, the police generally need probable cause.  Probable cause is roughly a 45% certainty that a crime has taken place.  (To compare, the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard for conviction is somewhere upwards of 95% confidence.)   

In the 1968 case Terry v. Ohio, the Court added another exception. In Terry, an officer observed a group of men repeatedly walking around a department store.  The officer questioned the men, and patted them down for weapons.  On appeal, the defendants argued that the officer did not have probable cause to look for weapons.  The Supreme Court agreed that there was no probable cause.  However, the Court also stated that there had not been an arrest initially, only a “stop,” and that the officer did not search them, but merely “frisked” them.  The Court held that “stops” and “frisks” were less than searches or arrests, and therefore, police officers did not need probable cause to engage in a stop or a frisk. 

A stop occurs when an officer briefly detains a person at the scene for questioning.  In order to stop the individual, the officer must have a reasonable suspicion that the person has committed a crime.  A frisk is a “pat down” to feel for weapons.  The officer can feel over clothing and if she feels something that feels like a weapon (or other contraband), she can remove it.  However, officers cannot remove items that do not immediately appear to be illegal. 

In Terry, the Court stated reasonable suspicion cannot be based on a hunch.  Rather, the officer’s belief must be supported by provable facts. So, “he looks like a bad guy,” would not be enough.  On the other hand, “I observed the suspect snooping around a bank in a suspicious manner,” could be sufficient. While probable cause requires roughly 45 percent certainty, legal experts rate the requirement for reasonable suspicion at just over 30 percent.  Clearly, reasonable suspicion is the lowest level of justification that the police need to interact with a citizen.

 

Why Stop and Frisk Matters

Stop and frisk is a problem for a number of reasons.  First, stop and frisk is employed in a racist fashion.  In New York, out of the 4.4 million people that were stopped, 52% were African American, 31% were Latino, and 10% were white.  During the same period, the population of New York City was 23% African American, 29% Latino, and 33% white.  In addition, a New York Times study of fourteen police forces across four different states found that African Americans were anywhere from 1.5 to 5 times more likely to be stopped than their white counterparts.  (See the graphic below.)  So, the racial component to stop and frisk is clear.

Second, stop and frisk doesn’t work.  In the federal case where New York City’s stop and frisk program was declared unconstitutional, Judge Shira Scheindlin found that only 12 percent of stops resulted in citation or arrest.  Thus, out of the 4.4 million people stopped by the NYPD, eighty-eight percent – 88 percent! – were completely innocent.  Also, in the New York Times study referenced above, even though African Americans were far more likely to be stopped, in only one of the fourteen jurisdictions were African Americans more likely to have illegal items.  In one jurisdiction, whites and blacks were equally likely to have contraband.  In each of the other twelve jurisdictions, whites were actually more likely to have drugs or weapons.  So, as a matter of police work, stop and frisk does not get drugs and weapons off the streets because officers focus on the people least likely to have contraband. 

Nyt stop and frisk

Source:  New York Times

Third, stop and frisk traumatizes people of color.  In 2014, NAACP interviewed several New York City residents about their experiences with the police.  The respondents reported feeling embarrassed, dehumanized, disrespected, and hurt.  A more recent report indicates that people subject to stop and frisk are more likely to experience mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder.    Moreover, when a number of individuals have negative experiences with the police, entire communities are impacted.  A report by the Center for Constitutional Rights stated, “NYPD’s aggressive use of stop and frisk does significant damage to police-community relations in ways that may actually reduce public safety. Several people interviewed by CCR said they would never call the police if they needed help, based on experiences where the police had either failed to act or turned against them.”   So, bad policing of individuals kills the relationships between police and communities of color. 

Finally, and most significantly, stops and frisks can lead to death.  According to various studies, African-Americans are far more likely to be killed by the police than whites.  As the CCR stated, “Stops and frisks are steeped in the ever-present threat of police violence. Several interviewees reported that stops often result in excessive force by police, describing instances when officers slapped them, threw them up against walls or onto the ground, beat them up, used a Taser on them, or otherwise hurt them physically. Many of the testimonies CCR heard illustrate that this force is often used indiscriminately, or in response to being asked the reason for a stop or an arrest.”  It is not difficult to imagine an encounter escalating from use of non-lethal force to lethal force.  Sadly, at present, people of color must assume that any contact with the police carries the risk of death.  So, the goal should be to reduce interactions with police until we can rest assured that the police will no longer kill us. 

Stop and frisk is an ineffective and racist program.  Stop and frisk causes trauma.  Stop and frisk erodes confidence in the police.  Stop and frisk endangers lives.  For all of these reasons, people of color must work to defeat any suggestion that stop and frisk be expanded. 

October 1, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)