New York in Black and White
A significant majority of New Yorkers say the Police Department favors whites over blacks, according to a new poll by The New York Times.
That view, as widespread now as it was in 2001 during the administration of Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, is particularly prevalent among black New Yorkers, 80 percent of whom say the police favor one race over the other. A plurality of white residents — 48 percent — agree.
There's only one problem. Whites don't seem to have any real problem with it.
The poll found that a majority of black residents said the stop-and-frisk tactic had led to the harassment of innocent people, but most white residents viewed the practice as an acceptable way to improve urban safety.
This dichotomy is at the heart of the perpetual question of why Americans go to work everyday, come home and plop their fat butts down in front of the TV and watch the Kardashians or unattractive New Jersey women, and don't furrow their wrinkly brow over problems with the criminal justice system, police misconduct and abuse or, for that matter, people who get to vote on the laws of this nation who possess strange views of the human reproductive system.
It's not that they necessarily like what's going on, but it doesn't touch them. People don't care enough to get off the couch when the problem isn't theirs.
If white people were being stopped and frisked, thrown against the wall or forced to kiss pavement, in either the numbers or with the degree of force experienced routinely by black New Yorkers, you can bet your butt that they would be screaming for blood. That would be Ray Kelly's blood. That would be Mike Bloomberg's blood. Suddenly, the adage that you have to break a few eggs to make a safe omelet wouldn't be enough to make the pain and humiliation go away.
My old buddy Mike, with whom I rode the train into the city every morning, and who was a classmate of Nino Scalia's at La Salle Military Academy, spelled it out to me pretty clearly:
People don't get too concerned over abstractions, unless it happens to hit them where they live. As my good buddy Mike from the train tells me, "Hey, somebody has to take one for the team, as long as it isn't one of mine." I suspect most people feel that way in their hearts.
This survey confirms my suspicions, though it's hardly a new idea. Pastor Martin Niemöller made the point back in World War II. It remains as true today, in New York, as ever.
At its conceptual core, much of what' written here is the elevation of law over order, the protection of civil rights and personal freedom at the sacrifice of safety. I would like to believe that most people generally agree with the notion, provided that the safety at risk isn't theirs. When it is, they line up right behind my buddy, Mike, and are fully prepared to sacrifice rights and freedoms to regain that sense of personal security, particularly when someone else has to take the bullet for the team.
But some New Yorkers, while conceding that the police show favoritism for one race over another, said the stop-and-frisk tactic’s ends justified the means.
“If that’s what it takes, I find it acceptable,” said Jani Kipness, 58, a special-education teacher from Brooklyn who is white. She said that she thought that officers “single out minority groups,” but that “if you look at the crime in New York, it’s less white people; that’s just the way it is.”
“I wouldn’t want to be stopped and frisked,” she added. “But if you look at cities like Detroit and other cities that have a way higher crime rate than New York, I think New York has to be doing something right.”
Kinda makes you feel proud to be a New Yorker, doesn't it? But don't be angry with Jani. She's hardly alone.
“In the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, they will stop and frisk blacks and Hispanics more,” said Kevon Geanus, 20, a construction worker who is black and lives in the Bronx. “The way they talk to you, and curse at you, when you’re just walking, for example, and say: ‘Why are you walking? What are you doing out here at night?’ ”
The irony is that this practice doesn't necessarily make anyone safer, given the negligible results produced by stop and frisk. but it goes a long way in giving the appearance of order, the sense of security, that lets people sleep better at night. That would be white people, of course. Who aren't asked to take one for the team.