Martin Luther King Day Links
posted by Frank Pasquale
To mark the day, a few reflections:
1) Nicholas K. Peart, Why is the NYPD After Me?
Less than two years later, in the spring of 2008, N.Y.P.D. officers stopped and frisked me, again. And for no apparent reason. This time I was leaving my grandmother’s home in Flatbush, Brooklyn; a squad car passed me as I walked down East 49th Street to the bus stop. The car backed up. Three officers jumped out. Not again. The officers ordered me to stand, hands against a garage door, fished my wallet out of my pocket and looked at my ID. Then they let me go. I was stopped again in September of 2010. This time I was just walking home from the gym. It was the same routine: I was stopped, frisked, searched, ID’d and let go. . . .
[L]ast year, the N.Y.P.D. recorded more than 600,000 stops; 84 percent of those stopped were blacks or Latinos. Police are far more likely to use force when stopping blacks or Latinos than whites. In half the stops police cite the vague “furtive movements” as the reason for the stop. Maybe black and brown people just look more furtive, whatever that means. These stops are part of a larger, more widespread problem — a racially discriminatory system of stop-and-frisk in the N.Y.P.D.
During the year after her husband’s assassination, Coretta Scott King made several visits to Charleston, S.C., where hospital aides at what was then the Medical College of South Carolina were involved in a protracted fight for decent wages. After a 113-day strike, the union won an agreement that led to wage increases and new grievance procedures.
The campaign was led by Mary Moultrie, a South Carolina native . . . In Moultrie’s telling, the gains that the union won lasted only for a few years. Because South Carolina is a right-to-work state, the union couldn’t manage to maintain much strength. But Moultrie didn’t give up: She was still organizing as recently as 2008.
3) Adam Kotsko, On the commemoration of Martin Luther King
Above all, they say: we gave you formal equality and canonized the man who forced us to do so — now can we please not talk about this any more? Yet things are not quite so fargone as that. Despite their formidable power, despite all the efforts of domestication and neutralization they’ve devoted to it, they can’t fully control the meaning of such a powerful symbol. We should be glad that this date is on the calendar, not so that we can passively honor that symbol but so that we can continue to struggle over its meaning.
4) Glenn Loury, Ghettos, Prisons, and Racial Stigma (Tanner Lectures, 2007)
[O]ne can see from the table[s] that the experience of incarceration for poorly educated black men is estimated to be four times more prevalent in the later than in the earlier cohort – 58.9% as compared to 17.1%. The massive scale of this policy shift is stunning. To repeat: there is a nearly three-fifths chance that a black male with less than HS diploma born between 1965-69 will have gone to prison or jail at least once prior to reaching age 35.
5) John Paul Stevens review of William Stuntz, The Collapse of American Criminal Justice
While only 10 percent of the adult black population uses illegal drugs, as does a roughly equal percentage—9 percent—of the adult white population, blacks are nine times more likely than whites to serve prison sentences for drug crimes. “And the same system that discriminates against black drug defendants also discriminates against black victims of criminal violence.” As “suburban voters, for whom crime is usually a minor issue,” have come to “exercise more power over urban criminal justice than in the past,” police protection against violent felonies has disproportionately extended to suburban neighborhoods rather than the urban centers where more black individuals reside.
The “bottom line,” Stuntz explains, has been that “poor black neighborhoods see too little of the kinds of policing and criminal punishment that do the most good, and too much of the kinds that do the most harm.” In this sense and others, Stuntz concludes, our criminal justice system has “run off the rails.”
7) If you missed it last year; some commentary on Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow.
Paul Krugman notes today that MLK would be “disappointed” in what the US has become since his death. I think the feeling of alienation and indignation would be much stronger than that.