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Lantigua-Williams: Stop-and-frisk decision welcome

Published August 17, 2013 1:01 am

NYC police criminalized skin color
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

By Juleyka Lantigua-Williams

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

I grew up in the Bronx, and I welcome the recent court decision striking down New York's stop-and-frisk policy.

This policy discriminated against men of color and, in a blatantly un-American way, trampled on the presumption of innocence.

U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin said the policy amounted to racial profiling and violated the Fourth Amendment right to privacy and the 14th Amendment right to due process under law.

I can attest to the fact that inner city neighborhoods like mine have often been seen as war zones. Police perceive residents as instant suspects, so we are rarely afforded the same rights and respect as people who live in other areas.

Stop and frisk has been quietly robbing black and brown families of their sons and daughters for decades because it reinforces the dangerous and bigoted assumption that criminality is embedded in skin color. That assumption makes every teenager, young adult and grown man of color a presumed criminal.

In places like the South Bronx — erroneously but almost universally perceived as a cauldron of criminal activity — the most innocent of behaviors could land a young man face down on the pavement in seconds.

I watched police harass pedestrians on my way home from school.

I heard the sirens blaring as multiple patrol vehicles swarmed a residential block because four black teens were congregated on a corner after hours.

I saw desperate mothers and grandmothers beg and plead with unmoved officers to let their sons go back to their homes in the early hours of nightfall and also in broad daylight.

When a police cruiser started its slow and watchful stroll down the main arteries in my childhood neighborhood, we walked slower, looked straight ahead, made no sudden movements or loud noises and said a quiet prayer that the patrol car would move on without disturbing our peace.

The stop-and-frisk policies in New York City, and similar ones around the country, have criminalized black and brown skin color.

With this court decision, that ought to stop.

No one should be labeled a suspect because of skin color.

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams writes for Progressive Media Project.




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