Now that stop and frisk is unconstitutional in New York, will we start seeing whites profiled for a change?

August 13, 2013 6:41 PM

Too bad law enforcement agents never seem to profile the likes of Whitey Bulger and James Lee DiMaggio.

For some reason, the white bad guy stereotypes just don't stick like the black, Latino hoodie hood.

But this week, we got lots of bolts of reality. Bulger finally was convicted after 16 years on the lam. DiMaggio was caught and gunned down in Idaho after abducting young Hannah Anderson. And on top of that, there's the fictional Walter White getting bang up ratings in the season opener of "Breaking Bad." (By the way, did you see the Asian American female character in that episode who actually had a speaking part? She pointed to a man's zipper and said, "Barn door open." Not exactly a great moment in Hollywood diversity.)
Makes one wonder in real life: Shouldn't we really be profiling white people?

We might actually catch more bad guys.

Of course, society doesn't do it that way. We save that sort of treatment for minorities and people of color.

Bulger, after all, was on the FBI's Most Wanted List, but he was No. 2 to Osama bin Laden. Still, only South Asians got profiled and stereotyped, not greybeard Whitey. 

No doubt it's a strange twisted aspect of that phenomenon known as "white privilege" that extends even to white "bad guys." 
But this week may change all that, as racial profiling took a huge hit when a federal judge in New York ruled that stop and frisk is unconstitutional.

It was ironic because even as the week began, I was feeling a twinge of nostalgia for that great white conservative, President Ronald Reagan.

Now mind you, perhaps the most liberal thing Reagan was known for was his progressive use of hair color.

But I don't want to be too harsh on the icon whom even folks like Sen. Ted Cruz, the Canadian American from Texas, seem to have shoved aside in favor of Ayn Rand.
No, Reagan deserves at least a few seconds of our thanks this week for the one thing he did for Asian Americans that may be short of impossible in today's gridlocked political climate.

On August 10, 1988, 25 years ago, the president signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, the law that gave an official apology to the 120,000 Japanese Americans incarcerated in concentration camps during World War II.

And with it came an unprecedented $20,000 per victim. A small price to pay for the upheaval of racial profiling.

Rep. Mike Honda sent out this tweet:

The law didn't assure the nation would never again make such heinous racial profiling mistakes.
Indeed, it has.

But the anniversary did serve as a perfect set-up for this week, when a few existing modern civil liberties horrors were swept away by strong declarative actions.

In New York, the notorious stop and frisk practices of the NYPD were found unconstitutional in a thorough and courageous decision by U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin. In a nearly 200-page ruling, the judge reviewed all the cases, 4.4 million stops in New York City between 2004 and 2012, in which the vast majority (88 percent) ended up in no arrests, no ticket, no charge.

Just harassment.
That's New York City law enforcement at work.

Of course, the majority of stops involved African American and Latino males. It didn't jibe with the fact that most of those actually charged with criminal conduct were white.

Innocent people were racially profiled. Real criminals were caught coincidentally.

And yet Mayor Michael Bloomberg continued to defend an abusive stop and frisk policy as the reason for low crime rates in New York City. Well, that too is coincidental, as crime rates nationwide are down. 
Stop and frisk? It's like internment, but without the housing element.

That housing, or rather warehousing, aspect in law enforcement was addressed within hours of the stop and frisk ruling, as Attorney General Eric Holder spoke at the American Bar Association convention in San Francisco. Holder unveiled new policies intended to ease prison overcrowding and the over-incarceration of blacks and Latinos.

Holder showed that having a black man as the nation's highest ranking law enforcement official does make a difference. By simply giving his blessing to judicial discretion, judges can refrain from imposing harsh, overly punitive mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug-related crimes.

For the convicted and their families, mostly people of color, it was a humane and compassionate stand.

For society, it represented a departure from the "law and order" politics of the day to end the public warehousing of people of color and deal with prison overcrowding head on.

He found the self-interest in mercy.

People are quick to comment that Holder may be trying to pump up his legacy here. In spite of an uneven record, there's nothing wrong in applying some much needed justice here.

But we've arrived at this point because of an over-reliance on stereotyping and racial profiling that comes at the expense of justice, fairness, and, as District Judge Scheindlin found, the Constitution.

What these new developments this week don't address is what is owed to the people who were irreparably harmed, stopped and frisked multiple times, or imprisoned and stripped of family and freedom.

Japanese American internees got $20,000 per victim. As I said, I don't think in a political climate where politicos fight tooth and nail over everything from health care to food stamps to aid to the poor that we'll ever see anything like reparations again.

But no one seems to be talking about a nice simple apology draped in an American flag either.

It's not clear if judges will heed Holder's call for sentencing reform. But when it comes to stop and frisk, Bloomberg has shown that he's comfortable being the law and order fearmonger who sees nothing wrong in how millions of blacks and Latinos were routinely robbed of their civil liberties.

New Yorkers should learn from all the data of its eight-year experiment in freedom-stripping. Instead of harassing blacks and Latinos, the NYPD should employ a more even-handed approach that respects the people they serve and the Constitution. Why should white criminals get a pass because the police are stuck looking for the wrong people and insist on using racism as their guide?
Updates at Follow Emil on Twitter, @emilamok.

Posted by:Emil Guillermo

The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the views or policies of AALDEF.


1. Emil, which community are you trying to serve by writing this drivel? Stop and Frisk has helped the Asian community - you must not see it properly though looking in from your academia/media bubble! How often do you REALLY think this operation has actually stopped and harassed any member of the Asian community in the city? Why don't you ask some of the hard working Asian business owners and residents in the area? They will tell you to your face they welcome it, because it has kept many of the trouble makers and hoodlums off their neighborhood. Stop living in that fantasy world of yours - us Asians do not committ disproportionate number of violent crimes and inter-racial crimes like certain sections of this country. You need to inform rather than trying to indoctrinate your impressionable readers.
Posted by: JW | Aug 14, 2013 1:13 PM

2. I'm glad my readers are so impressionable. And I hope they get my point that regardless of race, civil rights are for all of us, not just some. I do feel for the store keepers and the business owners in the community. I feel for me when I walk the streets. I want to feel safe. But can't we achieve that level of safety and security without violating the constitution? The police will just have to do their jobs better without harassing innocent people. Asians shouldn't forget what happened to Japanese Americans who were victims of profiling during WWII. As I said, Stop and Frisk is just like internment--without the housing.
Posted by: Emil Guillermo | Aug 15, 2013 2:33 PM

3. Please Emil, comparing this effective pro-active crime fighting measure to a historically painful general sweep and internment of a particular nationality is not intellectually honest. It is not comparable in so many ways! In any event, I suppose this is a moot discussion, since this court has already made an over-reaching decision to make it unconstitutional. I was merely arguing, in the REAL WORLD, almost all Asian shop owners and residents in the area absolutely support this program, because it helped keeping hoodlums and troublemakers off the streets. We, as Asian Americans, were impacted positively through Stop and Frisk. Instead of dwelling in the mist of academic theory, why don't you ask those who were victimized by flash mobs in their stores or those elderly and women who got beat up and robbed by those same humanoids that this program supposedly was profiling? I just don't understand some of us in our community who tend to just accept any notion that we need to support other minorities and go against anything that remotely resembles politically incorrect. This is just foolish to embrace such mentality as if our needs and aspirations as Asian Americans are same as that of other minorities! No wonder we still can't throw our weight around politically despite our economic and consumer capacity. Do you REALLY think blacks and hispanic groups consider OUR welfare when they discuss their platforms and demands? If we want this nation to take us more seriously, we have to develop our own clear identity with characteristics. Let's stop wasting our time worrying about other minorities - they've already been granted a special privilege of "victim" group by the mainstream media and academia and gets LOTS of help. And yes, judging by the demographics of those visit this website, I'd say the majority of them are quite impressionable. :) Keep up the good work, Emil, but you're simply wrong on this issue.
Posted by: JW | Aug 16, 201310:32 AM

4. Thank you for your comments. These essays and blog posts are intended to make people think. And even though we disagree, I respect your views. I just hope you rethink the idea that Asian Americans are all that different from other minorities especially when it comes to this fundamental idea of equality. Too often, people of color find themselves together on the same side of unequal. That's just not the way it should be in America.
Posted by: Emil Guillermo | Aug 16, 201312:47 PM

5. Congratulations to Sunita Patel (a former AALDEF intern) at the Center for Constitutional Rights and all the co-counsels on this legal victory! It was long overdue, but it ain't over until it's over...
Posted by: sjx | Aug 17, 2013 3:41 PM

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