Thursday, August 16, 2012

An Open Letter to the NY Post and Shamar Smith

On August 15, the New York Post ran a story quoting Shamar Smith, a recent shooting victim in Brooklyn, calling on the police to keep applying their  Stop-and-Frisk  policy.  “Stop-and-frisk should be continued, after what I went through, being shot for no reason,” the Post quoted Smith.  The quote goes on to say, “[Cops] should do it (Stop-and-Frisk), get guns off the street.”
Let’s get to the point — Stop-and-Frisk doesn’t get guns off the street, and it doesn’t combat either gun violence or crime.  Last year, the NYPD stopped and frisked more than 684,000 people and got less than 800 guns off the street.  That means that in more than 99.8% of the stops and frisks the cops carry out, those they stop aren’t ‘gun toting criminals.’  Even worse, in more than 90% of the stops the police can’t even find a reason to arrest the person stopped, or even write them up for a violation.  And in the less than 10% of cases that people get arrested or written up, often they have done nothing wrong.
When I was arrested protesting  Stop-and-Frisk and held in jail overnight in Queens, I was in there with people arrested because they didn’t have an ID on them when the cops stopped them.  Apartheid South Africa had laws that said Black people went to jail if they didn’t have their pass.  The cops are enforcing that kind of law in NYC.  Also I’ve talked to people who got brutalized and arrested for asking the cops who stopped them why they were being messed with.
So what is Stop & Frisk really about?  It’s about subjecting people the powers that be hate and fear – young Black and Latino people - to harassment, brutality and all too often even worse.  We must remember the cop who killed Ramarley Graham in the Bronx claimed he saw a suspicious bulge in his waistband.  That was a stop & frisk that took the life of an unarmed young man.
My heart goes out to Shamar Smith, a young Black man just going about life who got shot and could’ve been killed.  As a revolutionary, I have worked all my life to give people like him a chance for a future of hope and opportunity, a chance this society denies to most young Black and Latino people, by building resistance to the ways this system comes down on the people.  The reality is that this system and the exploitation and oppression it subjects oppressed people to is why so many of our youth get caught up in crime and violence.  The NY Post is using Smith’s words to justify a policy that criminalizes people because of the color of their skin.  Stop-and-Frisk is more likely to victimize an innocent young man like Shamar Smith than it is to save anyone’s life by getting guns off the street.
Carl Dix is a coordinator for the Stop Mass Incarceration Network