“Walking While Black in New York”

I’ve spent a lot of time reading about the several class-action federal lawsuits against the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy.

This past week, a secret recording brought to light how deliberate was the policy to stop and frisk “male blacks 14 to 21, 21.” Those were the words of a NYPD Deputy Inspector, ordering one of his police officers to “stop, question and, if necessary, frisk ‘the right people at the right time, the right location.'”

Today, the New York Times editors page pulled a powerful catch phrase as its editorial title: “Walking While Black in New York.”

The first time I heard a version of this phrase was years ago, when I worked for lawyers who represented four young (black) men who were pulled over and stopped for no reason by New Jersey State Troopers, who shot into their car injuring several of them. If Johnnie Cochran didn’t invent the phrase “Driving while black,” he certainly was the first person I heard say it.

It was powerful then. It’s powerful now.


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