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The Stop-and-Frisk Crisis: How to Criminalize an Entire Generation of Black and Latino Men

Instead of curtailing gun violence in the inner city, stop-and-frisk has only succeeded in marginalizing young males of color.

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Statistics reveal that nine out of 10 individuals who are stopped and frisked are never ticketed or arrested. Though by law, police must have “reasonable suspicion” that a target is carrying a weapon in order to frisk them, no gun is retrieved in over 90 percent of the stops. The proportion of gun seizures to stops has fallen significantly—only 780 guns were confiscated last year, not much more than the 604 guns seized in 2003, when officers made 160,851 stops.

That is why it was so shocking and disrespectful for Mayor Bloomberg to show up, this past Sunday, at the First Baptist Full Gospel Church in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn (one of New York City’s poorest and most underdeveloped communities) to defend the city’s policy of stop-and-frisk. Shocking because the numbers do not lie and it was a week before the massive anti-stop-and-frisk silent march scheduled for this Sunday, Father’s Day, organized by a multicultural army of labor leaders, civil rights organizations, elected officials, and many others.

True to his form as an elite businessman who has always been out of touch with the masses of people in New York, the mayor stood before the congregation with an aloofness that has become his trademark. First he referenced Dr. King’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech and suggested that gun violence remained a barrier to racial equality in America.

No, Mr. Mayor. Wrong. As a product of the American ghetto the mayor clearly knows nothing about, I feel qualified to tell you that horrific public schools, limited employment opportunities, underdevelopment and gentrification, and the greed of those who prey on the misery and ignorance of poor communities in our nation are the real barriers to racial and economic equality. Guns and gun violence are merely a symptom of a larger problem: a pervasive sense of utter hopelessness, desperation, rage, and, yes, life-long pain caused by our circumstances.

But then Mayor Bloomberg took things a step further and announced that stop-and-frisk would not end. “I believe the practice needs to be mended, not ended,” he said, sampling President Bill Clinton’s words from a 1995 speech about affirmative action.

I will not say that Mayor Michael Bloomberg is a racist. I do not know the man and do not know what is in his heart. What I will say is that it was incredibly arrogant for him to stand in the heart of “black Brooklyn,” in a black church on a Sunday, no less, and toss into black churchgoers' faces Dr. King’s words, and then justify a practice that is not only inhumane, but also racist in its application.

There is no doubt that many of our people have had enough. This Sunday, Father’s Day, we expect over 50,000 people to show up for the silent march to call an end to New York City’s stop-and-frisk policy. The tactic of the silent march was first used in 1917, on the heels of World War I, when black soldiers who had fought gallantly for America returned home and were attacked by white Americans, just because. The NAACP organized this first silent march to draw attention to race riots that tore through communities nationwide, and to build mass opposition to lynchings.

Here we are, nearly 100 years later, in an America with its first black president and the kind of racial progress we could not have imagined 100 years ago. Indeed, what is so beautiful and powerful about this Sunday’s silent march in protest of stop-and-frisk is the fact that it has been put together by a progressive, multicultural coalition – groups and individuals who have united to say "Enough" to how we treat certain people in our society.