As we approached Sunday’s silent march against the NYPD’s policy of “stop & frisk,” the naysayers were working hard to distract people. They were trying to down play the racial profiling element, and they attempting to justify these sorts of discriminatory acts as somehow preventing crime. But the most despicable misrepresentation that these folks have been putting out there is that marching against “stop & frisk” is somehow saying that we as a community do not care about curbing violence. Nothing could be further from the truth. Let’s just set the record straight right now.
Anyone who reads my blog on a regular basis knows that there’s one issue that I’ve been vocal about perhaps more than anything: the epidemic of violence plaguing Black and Brown communities. Tired of watching mothers, fathers and grandparents bury their young, and tired of watching kids shoot each other in the street like it’s some sort of video game, I and the National Action Network have been endlessly at work to get guns off of our streets and restore peace to our neighborhoods. We’ve marched, held rallies, conducted gun buyback programs and stood side-by-side with victims of this senseless violence that is sweeping the nation. But do not get things confused; fighting against “stop & frisk” policies has nothing to do with fighting crime.
The stats prove that a majority of those stopped and searched under the NYPD’s discriminatory procedure are found to be innocent. By profiling mostly innocent young Black and Latino men and subjecting them to these invasive searches, the police are not really solving crime. They are wasting time and money dehumanizing an entire generation of people. I believe that while some guns have been removed from the neighborhood, those same guns and countless others can be recovered by investing in our youth and ensuring they have adequate housing, food and education. They need jobs! Our young people are hungry for hope!
On Sunday, NAN along with NAACP, 1199 SEIU and the New York Civil Liberties Union were joined by activists, clergy, youth groups and people from all walks of life as we conducted a silent march down Fifth Avenue. As one of the leading civil rights organizations in the country, we cannot allow the blatantly biased and criminalizing policy of “stop & frisk” to continue. And we cannot allow such behavior to be cloaked under the guise of some sort of crime prevention. We know better, just as you do.
I’ve lost a loved one to gun violence, but I will never allow a racist search tactic to be justified because some pretend that it is somehow keeping us safer. We must go back to the idea of a real community, of a village that is engaged and looks out for one another. We must continue programs that allow our youth to participate in after school activities and give them options to stay off the streets and far away from destructive behavior. We must save ourselves. And part of that process is sending a clear message that “stop & frisk” is only adding to the problem, and it cannot — and will not — be tolerated anymore.