Join the Reel Sisters and Reel Brothers in making a Difference
To all Reel Sisters and Reel Brothers,
Thanks to all of you who came out to the Reel Sister film screening Wednesday night at Free Candy in Brooklyn (and thanks to Reel Sisters for organizing and hosting).
We heard from city councilman Jumaane Williams and saw great films about racial profiling and racial justice. Then we had a deep conversation where people held the African ”talking stick” and shared their feelings, which I was honored to facilitate.
Best of all, folks decided to join a Reel Sister e-list and learn about actions we could take around racial injustice. The first two actions are to sign a petition calling for justice for Trayvon Martin and to contact attorney general Eric Holder and ask him to file federal charges against Zimmerman.
Here’s the link to the Trayvon petition, at moveon.org:
At this time the petition has 551,000 signatures! Please sign and get others to sign. We can get a Reel Sis./Reel Bro. count and triple the number of signatures on the petition by passing it on to your family and friends.
We can make a difference. At the screening, Councilman Jumaane Williams asked us to come to city hall yesterday for a critical vote on racial profiling. So I went. I was in the balcony at the council chambers when the vote was taken on the bill against racial profiling and the bill creating a police monitor’s office.
When the vote count reached 34 to overcome mayor Bloomberg’s veto, the audience raised the roof!
Please join us. Make the change you want to see. You’ll even feel better after.
Human Rights-Racial Justice Center
Highlights in the Fight Against Racial Profiling
Racial profiling is a nationwide problem. Stories have been reported across the country – not only by everyday people, but doctors, lawyers, judges, legislators, police, military officers, and celebrities.
People believe racial profiling is a problem. Polls show that a majority of both African Americans and whites believe that racial profiling is “widespread.”
Racial profiling is based on false assumptions. False #1: “People of color are the majority of drug users and sellers.” Government studies (SAMHSA) show that each racial group uses and sells drugs in proportion to its percentage in the population (for example, whites are 70% of the population and 70% of all users and sellers; blacks are 15% of the population and 15% of all users and sellers).
False #2: “People of color commit ‘most’ crime.” Corporate and white collar crime – the subprime mortgage and derivative frauds (such as AIG and Madoff), savings and loan frauds, and accounting frauds (such as Enron), are not investigated or prosecuted as heavily as “street crime,” even though they cost victims and taxpayers billions of dollars more.
Racial profiling does not work. “Hit rate” stop and search studies show that people of color are no more likely, and often less likely, to possess drugs or weapons than whites.
Data points to the problem. Studies around the country have shown large differences in the rate of stops and searches for African Americans and Latinos, and often, Indians (Native Americans) and Asians, even though all of these groups are less likely than whites to have drug, weapons or other contraband.
Racial profiling causes resentment in the targeted communities. It makes them less likely to cooperate with police. Independent stop and search data collection and reporting can show openness and build trust.
Data collection is becoming common practice. Racial stop and search data has now been collected by 22 states, 4000 cities, including over half of the 50 largest, and 6000 police departments.
Data collection cost is minimal. Departments with in-vehicle computer terminals (MDT’s) will have almost no additional costs (information can be entered on the screen); those without MDT’s can use scanner card systems. Departments only pay for the paper cards, collect them and forward them to an agency, (such as a college) for scanning and analysis. Software and hardware (only one unit needed) cost under $10,000.
Video cameras are not enough. While car cameras are important tools that protect people and police, they do not always record the reason for a stop or the driver’s race, and can be turned off by officers. Also, it is expensive and time-consuming to keep track of and review the videotapes to collect stop and search data.
There ought to be a (federal) law. Cong. John Conyers and Sen. Russ Feingold have reintroduced the End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA), which bans racial profiling, requires and funds data collection and reporting, requires independent complaint and officer discipline procedures, allows withholding of federal funds for police non-compliance with ERPA, and gives victims the right to sue. It needs our support.
Data collection is an important supervisory tool. “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.”
H2RJ (the Human Rights-Racial Justice Center) is a non-governmental organization committed to racial and criminal justice in civil and human rights frameworks. For information call 212-534-1081 or visit email@example.com.
King Downing is an attorney and founder of the Human Rights-Racial Justice center, which researches and advocates on race, policing and mass incarceration. He is an advisor to Nicole Bell and her Sean Bell Justice Project. Mr. Downing is also former national coordinator of the ACLU’s Campaign Against Racial Profiling, which worked to identify and end “stop and frisk” including the school to prison pipeline.