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The special tax

April 4, 2014

This essay by Christopher Smith, who’s a professor of criminal justice at Michigan State, appears at The Atlantic. It’s part of a debate series on “Is Stop and Frisk Worth It?,” that appears in the current issue of the magazine.

What Mr. Smith’s perspective reminds me of is John Griffin’s book Black Like Me.

It’s an interesting read.

What I Learned About Stop-and-Frisk From Watching My Black Son
The “special tax” on men of color is more than an inconvenience. A father shares his firsthand observations and fears. 

When I heard that my 21-year-old son, a student at Harvard, had been stopped by New York City police on more than one occasion during the brief summer he spent as a Wall Street intern, I was angry. On one occasion, while wearing his best business suit, he was forced to lie face-down on a filthy sidewalk because—well, let’s be honest about it, because of the color of his skin. As an attorney and a college professor who teaches criminal justice classes, I knew that his constitutional rights had been violated. As a parent, I feared for his safety at the hands of the police—a fear that I feel every single day, whether he is in New York or elsewhere.

Moreover, as the white father of an African-American son, I am keenly aware that I never face the suspicion and indignities that my son continuously confronts. In fact, all of the men among my African-American in-laws—and I literally mean every single one of them—can tell multiple stories of unjustified investigatory police stops of the sort that not a single one of my white male relatives has ever experienced.

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