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Views in brief

February 23, 2007 | Page 12

VIEWS BELOW:
NYPD's racist searches
Treating kids humanely
Defending Arabs and Muslims

NYPD's racist searches

ON FEBRUARY 2, the New York City Police Department released a report containing statistics on the number of times they conducted "stop-and-frisk" searches on the streets of New York City last year. The report revealed that police stopped half a million people in 2006, or 1,393 a day.

Even more disturbing is the revelation that, of all of the people stopped, over half were Black--this in a city where Blacks account for no more than 30 percent of the population.

The NYPD Commissioner, Raymond Kelly, rather than attempt to deny this clear exposure of racial profiling, has instead resorted to justifications, declaring that the police "stop-and-frisk" Blacks at a higher rate than whites because Blacks account for a higher rate of those fingered by victims and witnesses as criminal suspects.

The New York Daily News chimed in with a defense of the police declaring in an editorial that, "Stop and frisk stops crime," and that "there are no grounds for such an inflammatory, destructive accusation [as to racial profiling]."

In reality, Commissioner Kelly's justifications--and the Daily News' subsequent cheerleading of NYPD racism--are not only contemptible lies but also despicable in their arrogance.

First of all, the "stop-and-frisk" policy does not "work." Out of the 500,000 people stopped last year, only 4 percent of those stops (20,000) led to an arrest. Second, the argument that racial profiling is justified due to higher Black crime rates is a "reality" only insofar as it is constructed by police design.

Most "stop-and-frisks" occur in majority Black neighborhoods of New York, where the police are deployed in larger numbers. Therefore, the witnesses and victims that the police secure in the course of their work are overwhelmingly in relation to crimes in these Black neighborhoods, thereby self-creating the image of ubiquitous Black crime.

Third, even taking dubious police claims of disparate racial crime rates at face value, police "stop-and-frisks" tend to be vastly out of proportion in racial disparity to any officially recognized racial disparity in crime rates.

A 1999 report released by the New York state attorney general's office, which looked at "stop-and-frisk" statistics after controlling for varying crime and population rates, found that Blacks were still two to three times as likely as whites to be stopped across all crime categories. As the report stated, "crime rates alone do not explain the heightened 'stop' rates in the mostly minority precincts...nor do they explain the lowered 'stop' rates in the mostly white precincts."

Given all of this, it is clear that the NYPD is not harassing Blacks at such high rates simply due to the notion that Blacks commit more crimes. The reality is that the NYPD--and their wealthy, white New York City patrons--have an interest in keeping Blacks harassed, intimidated, locked down, and terrorized.

In a city where unemployment for young, Black men hovers around 40 percent, and where homeless and poverty rates are double for Blacks what they are for whites, the elite of New York see Black neighborhoods as potentially explosive and rebellious centers of opposition to the status quo.

This is no accident. Employers certainly find cheaper, Black labor on the market as a useful wedge in keeping wages down across all sectors of the workforce. Moreover, the politicians and police routinely use Blacks as scapegoats for the problems of society in an attempt to get poor whites to find blame with their Black counterparts instead of a system of inequality in which they find themselves both trapped.

In the end, when Commissioner Kelly (the man who justified the recent police murder of Sean Bell in a hail of 50 bullets) talks about his concern for stopping crime and protecting New Yorkers, the question then needs to be asked: Who is going to protect New Yorkers from you, Commissioner?
Keith Rosenthal, Boston

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Treating kids humanely

IN MY state, a group called Legal Aid of North Carolina is attempting to put an end to the practice of shackling some under-age children who appear in court.

No child should be handcuffed, shackled, or bound and gagged while in a court of law (or anywhere else for that matter). I would like to encourage your readers to try to stop these abuses in their states.
Chuck Mann, Greensboro, N.C.

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Defending Arabs and Muslims

REGARDING DAN Factor's letter, we must be aware of the broader context in which we make criticisms and understand both the intent behind it and its effects ("Criticism of Islam," February 16). Arabs and Muslims are the target and victims of the U.S. government's global war on terror. They are not the source of the world's problems, but they do make a convenient scapegoat.

The U.S. government needs enemies to demonize in order to gain support for its wars. Criticizing the victims serves to bolster the racism used by the government to support the war. We must question the motives that drive criticism of Arab and Muslim cultures.

One can hardly expect such admonishments to effect any real change. If all it took to change society were mere words then the world would be a much different place. In reality, it takes collective struggle to change ideas on a mass scale--and to free the oppressed.

The U.S. and UK have their own terrible records on human rights, labor rights, violence against women, people of color, gays, lesbians and virtually anyone who doesn't fit the approved model of family and lifestyle conformity. Western society has problems as bad or worse than any criticism one might level at Islam. Any critique of Islam made by westerners, no matter how well intentioned, will be seen as hollow rhetoric by Arabs and Muslims.

We cannot defeat the U.S. war on terror without supporting its victims and uniting with them in struggle. The best thing we can do to help oppressed people around the world is to get the U.S. off their backs. Instead of lecturing others about how wrong their culture is, we should do more to correct the wrongs being done to them in our name and the wrongs "our" government commits against us every single day.

As long as the U.S. occupies and oppresses people around the globe it will only increase support for radical, fundamentalist ideologies. Only after the U.S. is defeated will its victims have the freedom and confidence to form more egalitarian societies.
Nicholas Hart, Seattle

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