The racist stop and frisk programs which result in high numbers of African-Americans being targeted by police, arrested, imprisoned then stripped of their rights has been declared unconstitutional in New York by a federal judge. The fact these programs, funded largely by federal dollars, seem confined to minority neighborhoods when facts show illegal drug use is the same across all ethnic and class barriers, illustrate their racist nature.
Michelle Alexander did a wonderful job exposing this in her book “The New Jim Crow.” These cops never go into wealthy or gated communities and randomly stop people and search them for drugs. The outrage that would unleash exempts them from the programs making them unjust.
Judge Shira A. Scheindlin’s ruling stems from a class-action lawsuit claiming that the city’s police officers routinely stopped minority men, particularly blacks and Latinos, without legal reasons.
Last evening I participated in a panel discussion of the book “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander on BCTV.
Alexander presents a strong case that the mass incarceration of people of color is an intentional, organized effort to replace slavery and Jim Crow with a new system to subjugate African-Americans and Hispanics. Ronald Reagan decalred a War On Drugs in 1982 and shortly thereafter cocaine and crack began flooding American cities. Mass media dwelt on the new problem of crackheads and crime in inner cities although facts show white suburban residents use and sell as many illegal drugs as minorities in urban areas. Federal funds poured into police departments and stop and frisk raids became routine subjecting young Black men to illegal searches. Eventually we filled our prisons with minorities labeled felons for minor drug convictions. Mandatory minimum sentencing laws were enacted and the Supreme Court closed the courthouse doors to appeals based on racial discrimination.
Today our prison industrial complex, including for profit privatized prisons, are incarcerating two million souls, most for minor drug offenses. At a cost of $30,000/prisoner/year taxpayers are shouldering a burden many of them openly support. Politicians who ran on “tough on crime” platforms sent code words to their racist supporters that they’d incarcerate Black Americans. Once out of prison the system was changed to deny them not only the right to vote or sit on juries but to food stamps, subsidized housing, welfare and jobs. Ironically the only way left for them to support themselves was in the underground, illegal economy.
The book is intriguing and upsetting. The picture it paints of racist America made me angry that we allowed this to happen. This is an important book which I urge everyone to read.