As the father of a 12-year-old African American boy, this op-ed by Borough of Manhattan Community College student Nicholas Peart (pictured above) really hit home. In it, he talks about the unprovoked “stop-and-frisks” that he’s been subject to by NYPD, and the effect that it’s had on him. Quite frankly, it’s depressing: In 2011, in the midst of an historic presidency by an African American, black and Latino males are still subject to a deeply discriminatory and dehumanizing policy of be targeted simply because of the color of their skin. Here’s one of these times, it would be nice to claim some “white privilege.” I mean, I’m sure none of my white friends will have to have a conversation like we had with my son, i.e., the “how-you-should-interact-with-a-cop” talk. But don’t take it from me. Here are Peart’s words:
For young people in my neighborhood, getting stopped and frisked is a rite of passage. We expect the police to jump us at any moment. We know the rules: don’t run and don’t try to explain, because speaking up for yourself might get you arrested or worse. And we all feel the same way — degraded, harassed, violated and criminalized because we’re black or Latino. Have I been stopped more than the average young black person? I don’t know, but I look like a zillion other people on the street. And we’re all just trying to live our lives.
We need change. When I was young I thought cops were cool. They had a respectable and honorable job to keep people safe and fight crime. Now, I think their tactics are unfair and they abuse their authority. The police should consider the consequences of a generation of young people who want nothing to do with them — distrust, alienation and more crime.
According to the ACLU, the number of stops by NYPD has been increasing since 2007. In 2010, there were over 600,000 stops. For the first six months of 2011, there were over 362,000 stops. If this trend continued, that would put the 2011 number over 700,000.
So, it would be naive of us to think that our living in Park Slope will insulate our son from this. Especially now, as he travels more places by himself and with his friends.
In the meantime, I’m grateful to Mr. Peart, who has put a human face on these statistics and who has, through this piece in the Times, brought the issue to a wider audience.