Monday, February 18, 2013


President and CEO of the NAACP, Ben Jealous railing against the

NYPD practice known as “Stop & Frisk”

(Monday February 18, 2013. New York, NY) It’s not easy being Ben Jealous these days. As the president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) he is struggling to find relevancy for the oldest civil rights organization in America.  The NAACP has a long and storied history and was at the forefront of the movements that blossomed into the civil rights events in the 1950’s and 1960’s that literally changed the complexion of the country in many profound ways.  Born in the days after the Civil War the conclusion of that conflict may have brought legal emancipation to African Americans but it did little to alter the rampant, endemic racism, segregation, and oppression of Black citizens particularly in the “Jim Crow” Deep South.  The legacy of 400 years of slavery would not be easily relegated to history and organizations like the NAACP played a vital role in the long, often bloody march to racial equality under the law in the United States.


As desegregation of public institutions such as schools became law in certain States in the 1950’s it became obvious immediately that legislation alone could not induce the type of behavioral change and cultural shifts that would afford African Americans the right to live and work, educate and house their families and children as White Americans could.  The epic confrontations in Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi and other locations were led by men and women of almost unfathomable courage and fortitude.  Americans of a certain age can recall some of the seminal moments in that protracted movement.  From the church bombing in Birmingham to forced busing in Boston, newspapers and television brought the brutality of the era into the living rooms of America.

From Jane Pitman and Harriet Tubman to Rosa Parks; John Lewis and Reverend Abernathy to Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X and Medgar Evans to Thurgood Marshall, the civil rights movement produced more than its share of invaluable individuals and groups.  Sadly there are entire generations of younger Americans today who have no real knowledge or appreciation for the efforts and sacrifices of those stalwarts.  Unfortunately many young African Americans equate the likes of self-appointed “activists” and “leaders” such as the Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton with the civil rights movement when they were, at best, peripheral players who rose to prominence in the aftermath of the real victories such as the Voters rights Act of 1965.  

The racial progress that has transpired over the last 50 years is nothing short of remarkable in many ways.  That it took so long after the Civil War for reality and law to overtake prejudice and culture only serves to underscore the weight of those 1960’s victories.  In recent years much of the civil rights movement and those associated with it have become nothing more than race baiting blowhards, self-important activists without a noble cause.  Now, in the early days of the second term of the first African American president, Barack Obama, there remain no more glass ceilings for African Americans to lay claim to.  No, just the fact that America has twice elected a Black man by substantial electoral margins has not righted all wrongs, leveled all playing fields or lifted all boats on a rising tide of racial equality, tolerance, acceptance and understanding.  No, not by a long shot; yet circumstances and reality are so much different today indeed.


To say times have changed in racial terms is an understatement; to think that problems do not still plague our society would be naive.  But the issues of today pale in comparison to those of just a few decades ago.  Decades of Affirmative Action initiatives and countless other measures have drastically improved the prospects if not the lot for African Americans. Still, as a “minority group” they appear to suffer from a disproportionally high rate of social and cultural maladies from poverty, crime, drug addiction, and broken families to name just a few. 

In some cases it appears that the “issue” of the day is somewhat contrived or overblown; in still other cases the issue seems fabricated.  In the absence of real profound systemic inequalities and injustice a never-ending litany of perceived wrongs become the cause du jour often where no wrong exists to begin with.  Those individuals who self-identify as activists and leaders are struggling to remain relevant in today’s America.  One case in point is Mr. Jealous and the NAACP; so far removed from any significant value to Black America he lurches from incident to incident in a callous attempt to reacquire a sense of purpose.  If it is not a march protesting the shooting death of the Florida youth Trayvon Martin, then it is a shrill rant about the New York City Police Department (NYPD) and the controversial policy known as Stop and Frisk. 

The trouble with Mr. Jealous coming here to incite the perpetually aggrieved, professional “victims” of an unjust, unfair, inherently “biased” Police Department is that his argument is flawed; his position counterproductive to improving the overall relationship between the African American community and NYPD.    With New York City experiencing historic lows in all major crime categories, most new Yorkers would be hard pressed to not feel that these substantial reductions in crime have no correlation to the NYPD policies and procedures.  To posit that Stop and Frisk has not played a role in reducing criminal activity, particularly the offenses known under the rubric of “street crime”, is disingenuous at best, just plain ignorance at worst.

The most vocal opponents of Stop and Frisk complain that it amounts to nothing more than racial profiling targeting young Black and Latino men.  The fact of the matter is that 10% of the population is responsible for 100% of the crimes committed in our City.  That the 10% is disproportionally Black and Latino is undeniable.  While it may represent a level of social pathology not found in other demographic groups, it is what it is.  Mr. Jealous claims that an increasing number of members of NYPD contend that they “oppose” Stop and Frisk adding that in their collective opinion it “does not work”.  There are members of the 34,000 strong membership of NYPD who have issues with a variety of tactics, policies, and procedures.  In an organization of that size there will always be some amount of dissention.  That said, in candid conversations with scores of members of NYPD over the course of the past nine months, we have found a significant majority in favor of the practice despite the controversy that has become associated with it due, in large part, to the “activists” protesting.

Perhaps Mr. Jealous should pay a visit to Chicago where the homicide rate is skyrocketing and “Black on Black” crime of every sort is running rampant.  It is curious that “leaders” like Mr. Jealous and his counterparts in other civil rights groups never offer constructive, practical, affordable solutions to the plight of the communities they insist they “represent”.  Mr. Jealous has probably not spoken to some of the Black and Latino citizens in the rougher parts of New York City who have expressed full throttle support for NYPD and Stop and Frisk.  He likely hasn’t concerned himself with the epic violent crime escalation in Chicago because that would entail too much effort, maybe even some work, and tangible work. 


Sometimes we get caught up in jargon, confused by labels, and mislead by nomenclature.  The term “Stop and Frisk” itself is loaded, it conjures up a certain image that is more ominous than actual.  Americans like our bumper sticker phrases and slogans.  From the pentagon’s “Shock and Awe” to the Department of Justice “Fast and Furious”, anything we can assign a catchy brief slogan to we will.  To that point perhaps the practice the NYPD has been employing to interdict, mitigate and prevent crime before it is committed should have been called “Meet and Greet”.  Maybe it would be more acceptable to folks like Mr. Jealous if it was called “Kiss and Tell” or “Ask and Answer”.  Yes, our verbiage can cause undue troubles, so we live and learn, deal with truth and consequences, bump and grind our way through the thicker weeds of our diverse society, seek and destroy when we can after we lock and load.  Of course we can cut and paste and wine and dine our way around reality but that would just be smoke and mirrors.  If only the heart of the matter was just a matter of lingo.

What is reality is that since Stop and Frisk has been an operational facet of “routine patrol”, New York City has seen dramatic decreases in Assault and Battery, Breaking and Entering, and every other crime against persons and property. For you to ask our Mayor Michael Bloomberg to “repair the damage” he has condoned by supporting NYPD Commissioner ray Kelley and the men and women of NYPD, serves no positive purpose at all.  Quite the contrary; it only allows others of your ilk to fan the flames of division.

Sorry Mr. Jealous but you should get your facts straight, stop and think, search high and low for the nuts and bolts of what you and the NAACP can do to contribute to the solutions rather than just hem and haw, huff and puff, while you seek to divide and conquer and drag the debate down into the gutter portraying it in the old, tired terms of a Black and White issue. 



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