An Absurd Rite of Passage

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I wanted to make sure I linked to this excellent op-ed from a young black man, experiencing what all too many of us learn to basically tolerate in New York. 


This entry from his portfolio stands out:

Last May, I was outside my apartment building on my way to the store when two police officers jumped out of an unmarked car and told me to stop and put my hands up against the wall. I complied. Without my permission, they removed my cellphone from my hand, and one of the officers reached into my pockets, and removed my wallet and keys. He looked through my wallet, then handcuffed me. The officers wanted to know if I had just come out of a particular building. No, I told them, I lived next door. 

One of the officers asked which of the keys they had removed from my pocket opened my apartment door. Then he entered my building and tried to get into my apartment with my key. My 18-year-old sister was inside with two of our younger siblings; later she told me she had no idea why the police were trying to get into our apartment and was terrified. She tried to call me, but because they had confiscated my phone, I couldn't answer. 

Meanwhile, a white officer put me in the back of the police car. I was still handcuffed. The officer asked if I had any marijuana, and I said no. He removed and searched my shoes and patted down my socks. I asked why they were searching me, and he told me someone in my building complained that a person they believed fit my description had been ringing their bell. After the other officer returned from inside my apartment building, they opened the door to the police car, told me to get out, removed the handcuffs and simply drove off. I was deeply shaken...

It feels like an important thing to be part of a community of hundreds of thousands of people who are wrongfully stopped on their way to work, school, church or shopping, and are patted down or worse by the police though they carry no weapon; and searched for no reason other than the color of their skin. I hope police practices will change and that when I have children I won't need to pass along my mother's advice.

Except we've decided that it isn't important, and this young man will almost certainly have to pass on his mother's skeptical advice, as surely as I have had to pass on my mother's. The scariest thing about these kinds of interactions with the police is that there is no real recourse. This is the city we've decided we will have. There's no real sense that there's democratic momentum to address this sort of "crime-fighting." This is New York--and, in many ways, America. 

More on this from Radley Balko. Don't read it if you don't want to be pissed off. 
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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