Racial Profiling and the Legacy of the March on Washington

The 50th anniversary of the March on Washington takes place next week. It reminds us that a half-century ago, people of all faiths, backgrounds, and walks of life had the courage to come together to demand an end to racial discrimination.  

Yesterday, that call for justice was heard.

Yesterday, the New York City Council made history by overriding a mayoral veto to pass two bills that will increase protections against discrimination and improve oversight of the New York Police Department. One bill creates permanent oversight of the NYPD through the creation of an inspector general. Another bill creates strong and enforceable protection against racial profiling by giving individuals the right to sue the NYPD and prohibits discriminatory profiling based upon immigration status, sexual orientation, gender expression, housing status, and other categories.

The NYPD’s practice of stop and frisk has served as a flashpoint for discussion about whether and why institutionalized forms of racial discrimination persist in our society. 

“When you are stopped on the street and are thrown against the wall for no reason other than you know are black or Hispanic, it creates this sense of hopeless. No matter what I do, I am constantly being treated as if I am not worthy of this society, and I know as a pastor that this destroys the spirit,” said Pastor Samuel Cruz, senior pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, in a video for the Where I Am Going campaign. 

The sense of hopelessness that Pastor Cruz describes is felt too often by people of color and marginalized communities—not only in New York City—but across America.

Yet the passion and vision of those who took part in the March on Washington continue to serve as the cornerstone for a new society whose citizens have the right to demand greater equality and opportunity. Our society is still evolving. While we have more work ahead of us, the collective dream of those who took part in the March is not lost.

The civil rights crusaders left a legacy and roadmap that stands strong. Their dream gives us the hope, faith, and courage needed to sustain the fight for an open society based upon equality and justice. Children today will grow up in a more evolved society that holds governments accountable for injustices and nourishes their spirits.

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Policies makers are humans; those who abide by them are also humans. Therefore, there must be no discrimination as regard to race, sex, religion, and status.

The purpose of "stop & frisk", the fear and humiliation, is the very purpose of the policy. No one will say that out loud, of course, but the point is, and always has been, to keep non-European descendants on lockdown; to make sure they don't get the idea that they are equal to all others. So telling policy makers that you feel frustrated and humiliated, is just want they want to hear. Never mind why they do it; or why they say they do it; we have to make them stop. Humiliation of certain populations has always been a feature of police policy from its very beginnings. If they have to stop "stop & frisking", they are going to find another method, unless we make them, through lawsuits and demonstrations and interruptions of business as usual, that we ain't having it.

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