A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
The “progressive” Chinese-American mayor of “liberal” San Francisco is considering instituting stop-and-frisk – which no doubt is already informally practiced by his city’s police. Mayor Ed Lee’s intention to endorse legal apartheid puts him in the historical American mainstream, since “stop-and-frisk never stopped in the United States.” The practice stretches, unbroken, from slavery times. “If the laws are applied unequally, then there is no law, and the police are nothing but an occupying army enforcing martial law” – selectively, against Black and brown people.
Stop-and-Frisk Goes to Frisco
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
“If skin color is treated as reasonable suspicion, then that is an apartheid state.”
The Mayor of San Francisco, the first Chinese-American to hold that office, is considering instituting stop-and-frisk – but mostly in minority neighborhoods, of course. Mayor Ed Lee is all excited about joining the Church of the New Jim Crow, whose leading deacons are New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Philadelphia’s Michael Nutter. Like them, Lee claims he just wants to get rid of guns, although after ten years and the humiliation of literally millions of Black and brown men on the streets of New York, Mayor Bloomberg can come up with no compelling statistics on stop-and-frisk and gun crimes. Neither can Mayor Nutter, a stop-and-frisk fiend, whose city is under a court consent decree to curb the practice.
San Francisco’s mayor describes himself as a “progressive,” but we all know that word doesn’t mean much of anything anymore, certainly not in the Age Of Obama. The cops in his city are already practicing stop-and-frisk on the same people and neighborhoods the mayor wants to target, and have doubtless stepped up their racial profiling since hearing about the mayor’s remarks. The fact is, stop-and-frisk never stopped in the United States. Stop-and-frisk was invented in the slaveholding states as a matter of daily practice, when Black people carried around permission from their masters to move outside his property, and free Blacks had to show papers proving their status. Stop-and-frisk was part of the Black Codes following Emancipation. The Old Jim Crow was designed to control Black people’s physical and social movements, and African Americans who could not prove that they were employed, through documentation or some white person’s word, were sent to prison work camps – the genesis of the penal system in the South. There’s nothing new about stop-and-frisk, although it is central to the New Jim Crow, a racial caste system whose primary institution is mass Black incarceration. Stop-and-frisk was the hallmark of apartheid in racist South Africa. A variant is enforced in Israeli-occupied Palestine.
“If there is equal protection under the law, then stop-and-frisk is illegal.”
Stop-and-frisk is necessary wherever racial supremacists want to separate those whose human rights are to be respected from those who are outside of legal protection.
If there is equal protection under the law, then stop-and-frisk is illegal. Period. The law applies in those sections of New York and Philadelphia and San Francisco that have high crime rates, just as it does in Bloomberg's and Nutter's and Lee’s neighborhoods. At least, that’s what the U.S. Constitution says. If the laws are applied unequally, then there is no law, and the police are nothing but an occupying army enforcing martial law. As one of the signs in New York’s recent “Silent March” against stop-and-frisk read: “Skin Color Is Not Reasonable Suspicion.” If skin color is treated as reasonable suspicion, then that is an apartheid state.
Mayor Lee will surely caution his police to be courteous as they enforce apartheid on Black and brown San Franciscans, just as Mayor Bloomberg is now urging his cops to do. But there is no fundamental distinction between polite applications of apartheid and the rougher kind. How do you politely tell someone that they are lesser human beings, existing outside of constitutional protections, exceptions to the rule of equal treatment under the law?
Either stop-and-frisk is a crime against humanity, or Black people have no rights that police are bound to respect. There is no gray area, just as there is no white law.
For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected].