My Brother's Keeper

Since Jim Crow laws were abolished in 1965, how much have race relations in America improved?

Emotions ran high at last week’s . Residents were on edge about community-police relations, which many claimed, seemed to have worsened in the last few months.

But have community-police relations in Bed-Stuy really worsened, or are community members still raw over news of the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, whose only crime was being a black teen walking down the street in a hoodie with a bag of Skittles and ice tea?

The fact that the shooter, George Zimmerman, has not been arrested — in accordance with the Stand Your Ground Law — the fact Zimmerman is hiding under the knowledge of authorities, and the fact Sanford police initially did not want to release the 911 tapes raises the question in several people’s minds, who’s side are the police on?

In New York, there is no Stand Your Ground Law. But we've got something else: Stop-and-Frisk.

The controversial Stop-and-Frisk is an NYPD policy in which a police officer is authorized to stop an individual on the street allegedly based on reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. According to the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), in 2011, the NYPD stopped an estimated 684,330 New Yorkers, 87 percent of them Black and Latino. However, 90 percent of those stops were fruitless and did not result in an arrest or summons.

These sort of statistics are partially responsible for fomenting the belief amongst some communities of color that they are under seige by the police, despite NYPD claims to the contrary.

With the 2009 election of U.S. President Barack Obama, the country’s first black president, America rejoiced at having finally moved into a post-racial society. Many also pointed to the markedly improved racial attitudes of our younger generations: Amongst their ranks, the election of a black president really was no big deal, because in their generation, music, culture, people and lifestyles blend without effort.

However, others disagree: They point to the sudden arrival of the Tea Party Movement as evidence that the president’s election only awakened deep-seeded prejudices in America that had been dormant all along. According to a survey by the University of Washington Institute for the Study of Ethnicity, Race & Sexuality, "The data suggests that people who are Tea Party supporters have a higher probability of being racially resentful than those who are not Tea Party supporters," said Christopher Parker, who directed the study.

There’s little argument that in the last 50 years since Jim Crow Laws were abolished, civil liberties in America have advanced leaps and bounds. But the legislation of human and civil rights is a separate and apart issue from something far less tangible: racial attitudes.

So, we're asking you, the readers: In the years of your existence, how far would you say we have come as a nation with race relations? Take our poll and tell us in the comments.

Karen green April 02, 2012 at 07:18 PM
Brad April 03, 2012 at 07:45 PM
You know what? I'm sure police DO target black people in Bed-Stuy, but I'm white and I've been harassed as well (I'm a middle-aged guy...and I was with my two-year-old son!). Most of the cops have been great, but man...they put these rookies out there who have no 'soft skills,' and no way to discern between a regular citizen (regardless of color) and a trouble maker. I understand they have quotas and that they've got to adhere to, but the backlash against them will be pretty severe, I think, if they're not cognizant of how their behavior impacts their relationship with the community as a whole. If I were one of the good cops I'd make it a point to 'straighten out' any douche bags who may be soiling the cops' standing in the neighborhood, because, who knows (?), one of them may need our help one day.


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