Racism is not like the wicked witch in the Wizard of Oz where we can declare it dead by saying it, singing a song, Ding Dong the Witch of Racism is Dead, or by writing a legal opinion or a book. In recent times, there are many who advocate that racism ended with the election of President Obama and there’s no further need for affirmative action, protection of voting rights, civil rights groups such as NAACP or protection of rights afforded to African American and minorities, preferring to put an end to all of this nonsense. Those who advocate the end of racism have never had racism directed at them, experienced it first hand for themselves or had their rights and privileges challenged based on the color of their own skin.
The Supreme Court, in striking down a key portion of the Voting Rights Act, in essence, declared that racism is dead and therefore, no need for certain key voting protections against it are necessary. For those who have never been subjected to any form of racism in our society, it is easy to say that racism is dead. For those who experience acts of racism against them, it’s a farce to think that racism ended with the election of President Obama or any other event. No day, hour or event signifies the end of racism.
Ask African Americans and Latinos living in New York who are subjected to stop and frisk laws on a daily basis, and they will declare racism is alive and well. The New York Police Department’s practice of stop and frisk amounts to the police stopping more than 4 million for street interrogations since 2002 with the vast majority being black and Latino. In 2011, almost 700,000 people were stopped, with the majority being African American and Latino. And to bolster the racism of these routing police stops, in nine out of ten stops, those minorities stopped are completely innocent of any crime, according to the NYPD ‘s own reports. These practices are currently being challenged as racial profiling and an invasion of privacy rights of law abiding minorities. A bill is presently pending in New York to provide for an Inspector General to oversee the practice and to allow those targeted to sue the police, if stopped illegally.
In Washington, DC, WUSA 9, a local CBS affiliate TV station has been investigating taxi cabs that routinely discriminate against blacks by refusing to stop for and pick up black passengers while picking white persons in close proximity, often asking to go to the same location. In Washington, DC according to the investigative report, taxi cabs are 25% less likely to pick up black passengers. In some instances, cabs would make U turns to pick up white passengers immediately after refusing to pick up black passenger, according to the report, conducted in May, 2013. This investigation has led to taxi cab drivers being fined for refusing to pick up black men. It has not stopped the practice of racially profiling and refusing to pick up blacks in Washington, DC. Many black men who the investigating WUSA9 reporter, Russ Ptacek, spoke to, said it was just a way of life. The Taxi Cab Commission does not have sufficient personnel to investigate the practices.
Hate crimes against African Americans continue at an alarming rate. Of the over 7500 hate crimes reported in 2007, almost 35% were targeted at African Americans. The rate had not changed much in the last ten years. And even on the election of President Barack Obama in 2008, hate crimes occurred with two men in Staten Island, NY looking for African Americans to assault according to a federal indictment.
In Sanford, Florida, George Zimmerman is on trial for the second degree murder of Trayvon Martin for what is being described as racial profiling. The case is seen as one of the most racially charged and important criminal justice cases of the 21st century. Zimmerman according to the evidence made 911 calls to the police on numerous occasions alleging suspicious activity by blacks in his neighborhood. In one instance, a black male was standing outside a “Caucasian’s” home as the sole basis for the call. In reverse, undoubtedly a white man outside a black person’s house would not have caused any need for alarm. And in a post racial America, Trayvon Martin would be alive today.
Unfortunately racism is alive and well. Racism is a disease that still permeates America like cancer. And just like cancer, racism is still alive in America. Ding dong, the evil witch of racism is not dead.
Debbie Hines is a practicing trial lawyer and former prosecutor and member of the Supreme Court bar. As a civil trial attorney, she has represented clients in court rooms across the country. She founded LegalSpeaks blog in 2009 where she writes on issues of race and gender in the law. She is based in Washington, DC.