The United States of America was founded under the moral principles of democracy, freedom, and equality. Our Declaration of Independence famously states that, “All men are created equal” and this equality is echoed in the Constitution and more importantly the Bill of Rights. Everyday, the people of America enjoy the equality granted to us by the Bill of Rights. Everyday, we speak freely, we practice the religion of our choosing, and partake in many other freedoms established by the Bill of Rights. Without these freedoms, we would be unable to call our society a democracy, and America would not be a leader of the free world. The liberties presented in the Bill of Rights are the foundation for American equality, and to take away those freedoms would be to destroy our defining factor as Americans.
However, recent legislation such as the Stop and Frisk Program in New York City has directly violated these freedoms which we so highly value. Amendment IV of the Bill of Rights states that it is the right of the people to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures, however the Stop and Frisk Program allows police officers to randomly stop and question people, then frisk them for weapons and other contraband. Therefore, the implementation of this program is unconstitutional, and we as American citizens cannot stand for it. In fact, On August 12, 2013, U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that the stop and frisk practice was unconstitutional, however then-Mayor Bloomberg appealed her ruling. In addition to the poignant flaws in the program, it has proved to be largely ineffective. In about ninety percent of cases, no evidence of wrongdoing is found and the stopped person is let go. Statistics show that over 5 million innocent people have been subjected to police stops and street interrogations.
Additionally, the implementation of this program condones racial profiling, and has exposed the racism within our community, as the vast majority of people searched have been African American or Latino. African Americans represent 23.4% of New York’s population, but 53.0% of New York City Police Stops on account of Stop and Frisk were of African American people. Also, Latinos only make up 29.3% of New York’s population, and 33.7% of Police stops on account of Stop and Frisk were of Latino people. The remaining 47.3% of the New York Population which includes Whites, Asians, and Native Americans was only stopped 13.3% of the time. In fact, this racism is more than present in our society, as there are extensive recordings of police officials giving orders to search and arrest black people. Officer Adrian Schoolcraft took part in these recordings, but when he brought accusations of police misconduct to investigators he was sent against his will to a psychiatric hospital. In response to these allegations, the mayor of New York at that time, Michael Bloomberg, stated that the Stop and Frisk Program primary targets African Americans and Latinos because they are more likely to be violent criminals and victims of violent crime. This statement, coming from a person of power in this country, shows the institutionalized racism and bigotry present in our community, and our society’s need for change. The people of this nation must come together to defeat racism and bigotry, and end racist, unconstitutional programs such as the Stop and Frisk Program.
The Stop and Frisk Program in New York City is simply an example of the racial bigotry found in our society, and we must all make it a priority to do whatever we can to end this. The other day in school we were each asked what our vision of a utopia would look like, and all the students in my class responded that it would be a place where our rights to be ourselves are protected. We must realize that we are far from this utopia. We must see the number of people getting stopped and interrogated on the streets on account of the color of their skin. We must notice that these people are simply being themselves, that it doesn’t matter what color a person’s skin is when they are born. We are all people, and nobody deserves to be discriminated and incriminated for being themselves. Racism is a real thing. We are not in a post-racial society, and we cannot act like we are. It is our time to stand up against racism and bigotry in our towns, in our countries, and in our world.
– Written by Nick Jain (redefy leadership team)