Orig­i­nal­ly post­ed in Col­or­lines on August 16, 2013

Note from Deepa Iyer, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor, SAALT and Rinku Sen, Pres­i­dent, Applied Research Center:

When the Twit­ter­ver­sy around Kal Penn’s tweets about the NYPD’s stop and frisk pol­i­cy arose, we felt that it was impor­tant for South Asians to share our view of racial pro­fil­ing and its impact. We wrote some­thing and asked some peo­ple to sign on. That state­ment is below.

Simul­ta­ne­ous­ly, we reached out to Kal Penn to express our dis­ap­point­ment and con­cern over his tweets. We start­ed a con­ver­sa­tion that result­ed in his endors­ing this state­ment. Penn has also agreed to engage in a process of dia­logue, learn­ing, engage­ment and action on racial pro­fil­ing and stop and frisk poli­cies with the insti­tu­tions and com­mu­ni­ties work­ing on this issue, includ­ing Col­or­lines and SAALT. You’ll find Penn’s own state­ment at the bot­tom of ours.

This week, news of actor Kal Pen­n’s tweets appar­ent­ly sup­port­ing the NYPD’s stop and frisk pro­gram has gen­er­at­ed a debate about which we – South Asian activists, schol­ars, writ­ers, artists and lawyers – have strong opin­ions. In his fol­low-up yes­ter­day, Penn asks: “As peo­ple of col­or is this [stop and frisk pro­gram] effec­tive? Does it have mer­it? How do we make our own com­mu­ni­ties of col­or safer?”

Our unequiv­o­cal answers to these ques­tions are: no, no and not with stop and frisk.

Sikh Coali­tion

Stop­ping, inter­ro­gat­ing, detain­ing or search­ing peo­ple based on char­ac­ter­is­tics such as their actu­al or per­ceived race, nation­al ori­gin, immi­gra­tion sta­tus or reli­gion is racial pro­fil­ing. In a democ­ra­cy, there has to be a rea­son to stop and search some­one. Being a per­son of col­or isn’t a good enough reason.

Stop and frisk sounds so benign yet it cov­ers up the vio­lent humil­i­a­tion expe­ri­enced by hun­dreds of thou­sands of young black and brown men annu­al­ly. Beneath the num­bers is the human impact of this sort of polic­ing. It involves being thrown to the ground face down. It involves cops dump­ing your belong­ings on the street while they taunt you with pre­dic­tions that you’ll nev­er amount to any­thing. It involves hav­ing this hap­pen to you a dozen times before you’re 16 years old, and con­tin­u­ing into your adult­hood. This sort of police enforce­ment not only hurts the indi­vid­ual, but also entire com­mu­ni­ties whose mem­bers are treat­ed as “oth­ers” and auto­mat­i­cal­ly deemed unwel­come sus­pects in their own neighborhoods.

Accord­ing to the New York Civ­il Lib­er­ties Union, New York­ers, pre­dom­i­nant­ly blacks and Lati­nos, have been stopped and inter­ro­gat­ed on the street by police more than 4 mil­lion times since 2002, and nine out of 10 of those stopped have been com­plete­ly inno­cent. Facts cit­ed by U.S. Dis­trict Judge Shi­ra Scheindlin in the Floyd v. City of New York case,

which was brought by the Cen­ter for Con­sti­tu­tion­al Rights, include that between 2004 and 2009, cops searched 2.28 mil­lion peo­ple for weapons, and that 2.25 mil­lion of them (98.5 per­cent) had none. Out of 4.4 mil­lion stops, only 6 per­cent led to an arrest, which means that cops were wrong 16 times more often than they were right.

These num­bers con­firm that there is absolute­ly no evi­dence that stop and frisk reduces crime. New York City’s crime rate had start­ed falling before stop and frisk was ever insti­tut­ed, and cities and states across the coun­try have also reduced crime rates with­out using such an uncon­sti­tu­tion­al and destruc­tive practice.The neg­a­tive racial impact and inef­fec­tive­ness of stop and frisk would be rea­son enough to oppose it. And, South Asian com­mu­ni­ties have an addi­tion­al stake in this debate.


Desis Ris­ing Up and Moving

Espe­cial­ly since Sep­tem­ber 11th, South Asians are rou­tine­ly tar­get­ed as would-be ter­ror­ists in many set­tings. Plen­ty of peo­ple say that South Asians, Sikhs and Mus­lims com­mit more ter­ror­ist acts to jus­ti­fy that pro­fil­ing. South Asians have endured harass­ment at air­ports and at the bor­der, inter­ro­ga­tions and deten­tions by immi­gra­tion author­i­ties in the name of nation­al secu­ri­ty, and sur­veil­lance of Mus­lim Stu­dents Asso­ci­a­tions, mosques, and restau­rants. In fact, the NYPD is fac­ing law­suits for their sur­veil­lance of Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties.

A recent report by South Asian Amer­i­can orga­ni­za­tions in New York City and nation­al­ly reveals the deep impact of racial and reli­gious pro­fil­ing on South Asian New York­ers, many of whom are young, work­ing class peo­ple who strug­gle with being sin­gled out by author­i­ties, includ­ing the NYPD.  Indeed, plen­ty of young South Asians them­selves have been vic­tims of stop and frisk poli­cies – in both ter­ror­ism and non-ter­ror­ism relat­ed con­texts — even in schools.

We urge South Asians to join the grow­ing mul­tira­cial move­ment to bring stop and frisk prac­tices, as well as oth­er poli­cies that crim­i­nal­ize and tar­get com­mu­ni­ties of col­or, in New York City and across our coun­try to a speedy end.

(Affil­i­a­tions Pro­vid­ed for Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion Pur­pos­es Only)
Rinku Sen, Pres­i­dent of the Applied Research Cen­ter, pub­lish­er of Colorlines
Deepa Iyer, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor, South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT)
Seema Agnani, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor, Chhaya CDC
Chi­tra Aiyar, Board Mem­ber, Andolan — Orga­niz­ing South Asian Workers
Chan­dra S. Bhat­na­gar, Amer­i­can Civ­il Lib­er­ties Union
Shahid But­tar, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor, Bill of Rights Defense Committee
Malli­ka Dutt, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor, Breakthrough
Ami Gand­hi, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor, South Asian Amer­i­can Pol­i­cy & Research Insti­tute (SAAPRI)
Vani­ta Gup­ta, Deputy Legal Direc­tor, Amer­i­can Civ­il Lib­er­ties Union (ACLU)
Sameera Hafiz, Pol­i­cy Direc­tor, Rights Work­ing Group
Aziz Huq
Chaum­toli Huq, Academic/Law@theMargins
Vijay Iyer, Musician
Anil Kalhan, Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor of Law, Drex­el Uni­ver­si­ty Ear­le Mack School of Law
Aminta Kilawan J.D., Co-Founder, Sad­hana: Coali­tion of Pro­gres­sive Hindus
Jameel Jaf­fer, Deputy Legal Direc­tor, Amer­i­can Civ­il Lib­er­ties Union
Prami­la Jaya­pal, Dis­tin­guished Tacon­ic Fel­low, Cen­ter for Com­mu­ni­ty Change
Saru Jayara­man, Co Direc­tor, Restau­rant Oppor­tu­ni­ties Cen­ters United
Sub­hash Kateel, Radio Show Host, Let’s Talk About It!
Farhana Khera
Kalpana Krish­na­murthy, Pol­i­cy Direc­tor For­ward Together
Man­ju Kulka­rni, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor, South Asian Net­work (SAN)
Rekha Mal­ho­tra (DJ Rekha)
Mon­a­mi Maulik, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor, Desis Ris­ing Up and Mov­ing (DRUM)
Samhi­ta Mukhopadhyay
Vijay Prashad, Author, Uncle Swa­mi: South Asians in Amer­i­ca Today, and Kar­ma of Brown Folk
Naheed Qureshi
Luna Ran­jit, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor, Adhikaar
Hina Sham­si, Direc­tor, Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Project, Amer­i­can Civ­il Lib­er­ties Union (ACLU)
Amardeep Singh, Co-Founder and Direc­tor of Pro­grams, Sikh Coalition
Sivaga­mi Sub­bara­man, Direc­tor, LGBTQ Resource Cen­ter, George­town University
Man­ar Waheed, Pol­i­cy Direc­tor, South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT)

From Kal Penn: “I sup­port the state­ment from South Asian com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers on the impact of racial pro­fil­ing. I have and still do oppose racial pro­fil­ing in any form. I want to thank SAALT and Applied Research Cen­ter for reach­ing out and start­ing to edu­cate & dia­logue with me about these issues. I plan on being in reg­u­lar con­tact with these great com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers and allies around the issue of racial pro­fil­ing, and to dia­logue with and engage oth­ers about it. It’s impor­tant for all our com­mu­ni­ties to be edu­cat­ed, informed, and mobilized.”