A Good Reason to Leave New York

The explicit racism of Stop and Frisk

I should be blogging more about the travesty that is Stop and Frisk. I'm sorry about that. In the meantime, here is a quote from Ray Kelly that should shiver any African American in New York:

"It makes no sense to use census data, because half the people you stop would be women," Kelly said. "About 70 percent to 75 percent of the people described as committing violent crimes -- assault, robbery, shootings, grand larceny -- are described as being African American."

"The percentage of people who are stopped is 53 percent African American," he continued. "So really, African Americans are being under stopped in relation to the percentage of people being described as being the perpetrators of violent crime. The stark reality is that crime happens in communities of color."

There's are many problems here. Stop and Frisk isn't simply wrong because of the high number of black people caught its net, it is wrong because of what happens afterward. And while the number of marijuana arrests resulting from Stop and Frisk are appallingly high, the number of actual gun arrests are appallingly low:

Stop-and-frisk has removed thousands of guns from the city's streets -- but the NYPD detained millions of innocent New Yorkers to find them.

A Columbia law professor testified Wednesday that just one gun was recovered for every thousand people stopped from 2004 through June 30, 2012.

"The NYPD hit rate is far less than what you would achieve by chance," Jeffrey Fagan said in Manhattan Federal Court.

Testifying in the federal class-action lawsuit against the city and the NYPD's controversial tactic, Fagan said his analysis of paperwork from 4.4 million stops found guns were confiscated at a rate of roughly one-tenth of 1 percent, or 5,940 firearms.

Knives and other contraband were nabbed in about 1.5% of stops, taking 66,000 weapons off the street, the professor said.

And 12% of the 4.4 million stops during that time period -- roughly 528,000 -- led to an actual arrest or a summons, Fagan said.

Almost 90 percent of African Americans and Latinos stopped and frisked on the street were guilty of no crime at all. Effectively Kelly is saying that innocent black people should simply carry the weight, because a small minority of people who happen to have roughly the same amount of melanin have decided not to. This is precisely what racist policy is -- you create a group and then punish all of them for the sins (sometimes real, sometimes imagined) of a few of them. It is Barbara Fields' Racecraft in action -- the concealing of actual racism beneath a banal heading of race.

One could just as easily say that about 70 percent to 75 percent of the people described as committing violent crimes, could also be described as generational victims of racist policies, like the ones Kelly and Bloomberg are promoting. One could just as easily say the vast majority of violent criminals in New York city hail from neighborhoods that have -- over many generations -- been the victims of a national wealth transfer, the remnants of which are with us even today.

We don't say that. Writers and intellectuals on the Left would much rather talk about class. Same as it ever was. But this isn't going away. We aren't going away.

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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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