The Dream is Still a Nightmare, Mr. President, and You are NOT Helping
I don’t think Martin Luther King’s dream included a black president endorsing the racist policy of stop and frisk.
In July, after George Zimmerman was acquitted, Obama interrupted a press conference to make a statement, and this is part of what he said:
You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot I said that this could have been my son. Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago. And when you think about why, in the African American community at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here, I think it’s important to recognize that the African American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away.
If Obama was a young black man in New York, there is a very good chance he would be stopped and frisked by police, because in New York it’s policy to automatically view young men of color as suspicious and in need of getting their bodies touched by law enforcement. And if a cop was frisking a young Obama, there is also a good chance they would find some marijuana, since we know the president got high as a young man.
Around the same time the president attempted to publicly identify with Trayvon, he also publicly praised Ray Kelly, the NYC police commissioner. This Daily Kos post called the endorsement Stunningly Tone Deaf and Troubling.
The president said: “Kelly has obviously done an extraordinary job in New York,”
So I guess that means the president thinks stop and frisk is good policy, as well as spying on Muslims, which the NYC police is currently being sued for doing, extensively.
What did that surveillance entail, you ask? The Nation has the answer:
In yet another program developed under the guise of prevention, the department transformed itself into a formidable intelligence agency. The NYPD Intelligence Division indiscriminately spied on Muslim communities and Muslim student associations in New York City, Long Island and throughout the Northeast. In so doing, the NYPD put to use its own 2007 report on radicalization, which correlates increasing religiosity and politicization in Muslims with the potential for terrorism. So the NYPD went whitewater rafting with City College students, worried about “militant paintball trips” at Brooklyn College, and sent undercover operatives to take notes at mosques and ask questions at “ethnic hot spots” like restaurants and bookstores. Despite Kelly’s fierce defense of the program’s necessity, the department admitted that not a single prosecution has resulted out of this wall-to-wall surveillance. Like the stop-and-frisk program, these programs instill fear. Muslim communities have reported decreased mosque attendance, reluctance to engage in “[p]olitical organizing, civil engagement and activism,” and “self-censorship on many religious and political topics.” Kelly’s version of security means no space is sacred, or free of watch, for New York’s Muslims. The message sent to Muslims: you are all suspects, and there is no place you should feel safe.
Bang up job there, Ray. I hope the NYC STASSI enjoyed those terrorist rafting trips.
So how is the dream doing 50 years later? Here are a few tweets from Dave Zirin (The Nation) live-tweeting the commemorative march today:
Just saw hundreds of placards that said “Stop the New Jim Crow” confiscated by Park Police at March on Washington anniv.
Still can’t believe that happened. Printed placards said “End Mass Incarceration. Stop the New Jim Crow” Park Police snatched them.
Two people yelled at Park Police for taking placards. Threatened with arrests. They backed down, feeling cowed at event of empowerment.
Let’s not kid ourselves, for too many, the dream is still a nightmare.