Campaigns that put racism front and center are not popular these days. Just ask Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He recently claimed that the New York Police Department stops whites “too much” in reaction to two pieces of legislation aimed at putting an end to the NYPD’s practice of arbitrarily over-targeting blacks and Latinos. This tactic, better known as Stop and Frisk, has resulted in an estimated 5 million or so stops, 85 percent of them involving blacks and Latinos, over the last ten years. And the topper, only 12 percent of those stops resulted in arrests, mainly for minor offenses.
The package of legislation in question is called the Community Safety Act. The Act calls for an end to racial profiling by the NYPD, and proposes to create an independent Inspector General’s office to provide police oversight. Both proposals passed in the City Council in the last weeks.
As Asians, we’re left out of the conversation about racial profiling entirely, or just mentioned in passing, with no real substantive understanding of why we would spend so much time on issues of police violence.
Recently CAAAV put out a media advisory that generated comments among the Asian press on the list. We heard for example, “Asians don’t experience stop-and-frisk as much as Black and Latino communities.” And “Not all people are against stop-and-frisk. Quite frankly some people like it and believe they are safer.”
In our responses to questions about why we do this work we have always laid out that the issue is larger than stop-and-frisk. Discriminatory policing affects everyone. Yes, Asians are not as impacted by stop-and-frisk as blacks and Latinos, but we are impacted by the practices of the NYPD as it relates to structural and institutional racism.
The NYPD has been a racist institution since it’s founding in 1845. It is well documented that countless numbers of lives (primarily black and Latino men) have been lost at the hands of the NYPD. Corruption has also been a hallmark of the Department. In 2011, at the height of Occupy Wall Street, we saw the NYPD serving to protect the interests of the 1% after it accepted a $4.6 million dollar donation from JPMorgan Chase.
One of the legacies of 9/11 is that the NYPD began to conduct surveillance on South Asian, Muslim, and Sikh communities. Even the CIA has said their relationship to the NYPD is “too close”.
Mayor Bloomberg has made it clear that he will veto the bill and use his own personal wealth to overturn the veto-proof majority in the City Council. The lengths that he is willing to go to prevent the bills from becoming law fly in the face of the over half a million people and their families who have been directly impacted by discriminatory NYPD practices. As the bills were coming to a vote last week, member after member of the City Council gave moving testimony about their own experiences and the experiences of their constituents at the hands of the NYPD.
Our members are immigrants, people of color, queer and have diverse religious beliefs. We are not going to play the game where we give up the rights of some people for the perception of safety for all. When over 90% of people who are stopped and frisked are innocent, at the scale that we’ve seen, it is not okay for anyone who believes in justice to not take a stand or say “this doesn’t apply to me”. It’s kind of a no-brainer why we will continue to do this work.
You can see CAAAV in action here