Point of View Columns

Ten Years a Suspect

The Law of Unintended of Consequences is one of those laws that cannot be questioned. We have known all along that the race-based and unconstitutional Stop and Frisk procedure employed by the New York Police Department has resulted in the erosion of trust and confidence in law enforcement in many communities of color. As recent incidents at Barneys and Macy’s show, it has also resulted in the general criminalization of people of color.

Just about every adult black American who lives in or near a city has a story that involves their being followed around in a department store by security. It happened to Barack Obama and if you are an adult black American reading these words, it has probably happened to you.

During the past week, however, news stories regarding the arrest and detainment of black people who have legally purchased high end luxury items makes it clear that in New York, thanks to Stop and Frisk, white paranoia regarding the criminality of black people has reached hysterical, if not historical, levels. The fact that the wrongly apprehended individuals were offered a perfunctory apology by the NYPD does not hide the fact that there appears to be a new crime in the New York State Penal Code – LWB or Living While Black.

The Law of Unintended Consequences has been hard at work here. After over 4,000,000 unconstitutional and race-based stops over the past ten years, the NYPD’s Stop and Frisk policy has not only trained its officers to look at people of color as likely criminals, the virus has spread.

After ten years of official criminal profiling of people of color in New York City, a policy specifically and heartily endorsed by the mayor and the police commissioner and praised by more than a few businesses, newspaper editorials and citizens groups, there should be no wonder that many white (and non-white) New Yorkers (and retailers like Macys, Barneys and others) have come down with bad cases of profile-itis.

It is an ongoing tragedy that law-abiding citizens of the City of New York should have to worry about being questioned, detained or arrested for the simple crime of LWB. White citizens in New York do not think twice about walking into a department store and going to that section of the store where the luxury items are sold.

Black citizens of New York have every right to feel that, in a similar circumstance, they are seen as escapees from some racial township in a latter day version of American apartheid. They are simply out of their “territory” and even having the funds to purchase the items that they want is not enough to keep them from being caught in the jaws of a criminal justice system seemingly bent on promoting injustice rather than public safety.

Macys, Barneys and the NYPD have already issued their precooked apologies with all of the sincerity of stale beer. But just as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly remain adamant and unrepentant with respect to the odious race-based policy of Stop and Frisk, it is certain that there will not be any acknowledgement that “Ten Years a Suspect” could be the working title for a description of how that policy has been perceived by communities of color.

Meanwhile, as an ironic footnote to this sordid display of institutionalized retail racism, the rap mogul Jay-Z is planning to launch a line of eponymous high end clothing at……..you guessed it………..Barneys. And predictably, many of Jay-Z’s fans and others have called upon him to break off his relationship with Barneys. And predictably, Jay-Z has demurred to date.

The irony is that through his outlandish lyrics and commentaries that glorify violence, criminality and misogyny, Jay-Z has actually done more to convey the perception of young black Americans as potential criminals than ten years of Stop and Frisk. Again the Law of Unintended Consequences is hard at work.

One can be fairly certain that Jay-Z has never given a second thought to the impact and effect of his promoting some kind of faux gangster lifestyle. But one of the consequences of his successful promotion is that too many people, black and white, take him seriously. And the next consequence is that people of color get racially profiled and arrested by his business partner.

One would never have thought to see the NYPD and Jay-Z as strange bedfellows – but there they are – both complicit in demeaning, degrading and criminalizing communities of color but never thinking about the consequences.

 

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – June 14, 2013

With over 90,000 people killed during the past two years, Syria is in the news for all the wrong reasons. And now, people who forget the Law of Unintended Consequences want to make things worse. Meanwhile, the Teapublican Klown Show just never takes a day off, especially when it comes to degrading women. And finally, the slow strangulation of this country continues courtesy of your friendly Teapublican terrorists.  

Serious About Syria

The Syrian government may have killed as many as 90,000 of its citizens during the past two years. The current regime is blood soaked and tyrannical and is clearly opposed by a significant portion of the Syrian population. And while there is no doubt that the current regime should be dumped in the trash bin of history, there is a lot of doubt as to what, or who, should replace it.

Given the multiple moving parts in this scenario it seems bizarre that there are calls from Congress for President Obama to “take action” and to support the “freedom fighters”. It is all the more bizarre when we realize that these armchair hawks clearly have no sense of history and indeed may have taken leave of their senses.

The disastrous Vietnam War began with a call for the United States to “take action”. The Korean War begun in the 1950’s has never officially ended and remains an ignition point for wider conflict. Any call for “action” can quickly lead this country to a slippery and bloody slope that resolves nothing and guarantees an unending American death toll.

And just because someone opposes a tyrannical regime does not make them “freedom fighters”. Just ask the 43 American relief workers in Egypt who have been sentenced to decades in prison by the “freedom fighters” who now occupy the seat of power in that country.

And let us not forget that when the United States supported the mujahedeen “freedom fighters” in Afghanistan two decades ago, one of those “freedom fighters” was Osama bin Laden.

Now would be as good a time as any to recall the lessons of the Law of Unintended Consequences.

EWS – Existing While Stupid

Incredibly but inevitably, the Teapublican Klown Kavalcade manages to combine stupidity with misogyny in ways that are both appalling to humanity and incredibly insulting to women. Much of the language employed by these Klowns is so completely crude and ignorant that it must take a certain talent to be that wrong.

The latest Klown Kontest winner is Congressman Trent Franks who just had to say that it is rare that rape results in a pregnancy (!!!!!). This was supposed to be a reason to remove the rape exception to abortion protocols – as in no abortions even in the instance of rape.

Arguing that if only one woman were to be impregnated by a rape it would be one person too many would be a first step into the Bizarro World where Congressman Franks resides. The real point, the only point, is that women should have absolute control over their bodies including decisions regarding pregnancy.

“Actual” rape, “rare” rape – these are all in the vocabulary of the ignorant and should not be part of any rational discourse on the subject.

But we know that Congressman Franks is not the last Klown in the Teapublican Klown Kar. Another one is coming soon.

Slow Dance

The stealth strangulation of the American government continues as the direct result of the sequestration catastrophe that exploded over three months ago. Because the catastrophe was not as immediate as a hurricane or an earthquake there has been a tendency on the part of the Teapublican terrorists and their media enablers to declare that the impact of sequestration has been minimal.

When the furloughing of air traffic controllers precipitated chaos at airports across the country Congress acted to plug that one particular hole in the dike. And again the Teapublican terrorists tried to act as if all was well once the planes were flying again.

But ask the disabled veterans who have to wait at longer and longer lines at VA hospitals if all is well. Or perhaps this new branch of American terrorism should ask the people who are dependent on public housing how they like sequestration now that fewer Section 8 vouchers are available – over 8,000 fewer in New York City alone – over 8000 families in just one city who will have to somehow secure safe and affordable housing with no safety net thanks to the Teapublican terrorists.

There are literally thousands of federal programs that are slowly bleeding to death, serving fewer Americans every day and creating the grotesque scenario of record highs on Wall Street while misery expands on Main Street.

This slow death has many victims and we have the Teapublican terrorists to blame, plain and simple.

Have a great weekend!

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