A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
We all know that prisons are not for rehabilitation, and that the dynamic of mass Black incarceration has little to do with actual crime. Massive police stop-and-frisk campaigns in urban America are concerned with more than merely controlling Black and brown populations. They are “a regimented, calibrated mechanism for adding value to urban land by making city life untenable for young Black and brown men” and their families. Stop-and-frisk is a tool for Black removal.
Stop-and-Frisk As a Weapon of Gentrification
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
“There is ample anecdotal evidence that the relentless pressures of stop-and-frisk have substantially contributed to the mass exile of Blacks from New York.”
The massive, industrial-strength stop-and-frisk policies of big cities like New York and Philadelphia must be viewed as part and parcel of urban gentrification – the systematic removal of Blacks from the cities. What began as a straightforward intake valve for the forty year-old national policy of mass Black incarceration, has evolved into a regimented, calibrated mechanism for adding value to urban land by making city life untenable for young Black and brown men. The constant threat of being snatched up by police for no reason within the individual’s control, on the basis of his profile and the policeman’s whim, forces thousands of young men and their parents to make a choice. They can exit to a less hostile police environment, or stay and risk that life-changing encounter with the criminal injustice system, from which they may never recover.
There is no way to tabulate the impact that stop-and-frisk has had on the Black exodus from New York City. Such decisions are made in the midst of whirlpools of stress in besieged Black neighborhoods. But there is ample anecdotal evidence that the relentless pressures of stop-and-frisk have substantially contributed to the mass exile of Blacks from New York.
“They can exit to a less hostile police environment, or stay and risk that life-changing encounter with the criminal injustice system, from which they may never recover.”
How could it be otherwise? The New Year is less than a week old, but already more than 6,000 people have been subjected to stop-and-frisk, on top of the more than 700,000 or so last year, and the three million since 2004 – overwhelmingly Black and brown men. The last yearly data showed that 132,000 Black males between the ages of 16 and 24 were stopped for no good constitutional reason – which was a shocking number to the Community Service Society since there were only 120,000 Black males of that age living in New York City at the time. Police stops of Black males in that age group amounted to more than the total population of the entire local demographic cohort. Official New York is saying to these young men and their families: you can leave by way of prison after some fateful run-in with the cops, or you can find some other place to go, but we are going to make it very risky to live here.
Two women came to a meeting of Occupy Harlem last month, in rage and in tears at the prospect of losing their sons to the predatory police stop-and-frisk patrols, where literally anything can happen to your child. One of the mothers was in emotional agony. Her son was threatening to leave New York to live with relatives in Atlanta, so that his life would no longer be subject to the arbitrary, racist or corrupt character of whatever policeman was the next to stop him on Harlem's streets. The mother was in torment. She loved her teenage son and wanted to keep him by her side, but if he didn't leave for Atlanta, he might be snatched away some sunny afternoon, like the son of the other mother on the stage, who was led away in handcuffs after his last stop-and-frisk. Should the whole family leave for Atlanta?
Back in the day, we called the police an army of occupation in the ghetto. Today, they are an army under orders to make it as difficult and dangerous as possible for Black males and their families to continue to occupy their old neighborhoods. There are other people whose presence would be much better for land and housing values. Stop-and-Frisk provides an incentive for a quick racial and economic transition: Harlem without the Harlemites.
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].