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The Link Between Stop and Frisk and Slavery

What Stop-and-Frisk Means to the Descendants of Slaves

Stop and frisk, and other policies encouraging racial profiling, is related to the idea that Black people don't deserve equal protection from the law.

Real equality—the kind our nation took significant strides towards 50 years ago, with the Civil Rights Act—is a complex endeavor. Our Constitution may have formulated certain rights, but securing them for every citizen is an iterative process. As history has shown, this is difficult even in homogenous societies. So it’s especially complicated in a country where Black bodies once hung from trees like tire swings, and police power-washed nonviolent Black protesters who made reasonable claims for basic civil rights.

Stop-and-frisk is a lazy reversion to the old America—a sort of “freedom as usual.” It allows officers to single out particular groups, based solely on race, to detain and search people who seem to fit particular well-worn stereotypes. It doesn’t cultivate the kind of respect and goodwill needed to reconcile the race-based wrongs of the past or earn trust from the people it avers to protect. On the contrary, it reinforces the dangerous narratives that communities of color have combated for generations.

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