Dominion of New York

The 411

May 29, 2012

White, Asian High Schoolers Explain Logic of Racial Profiling

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Written by: Kelly Virella
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A group of Stuyvesant high students exposed their prejudices against black and Latino males during a WNYC interview. Photo Courtesy of Flickr/Art Poskanzer


oday WNYC published an article about stop-and-frisk that contained a very unusual and depressing perspective, that of a group of white and Asian high school students from the prestigious Stuyvesant High School. I had some hope that after the Trayvon Martin murder, even American high schoolers — certainly those receiving a top-notch education — would be thinking more critically about racial profiling. That is far from the case.

Here’s the relevant excerpt from WNYC’s story:

Last year, the NYPD stopped teenagers more than 140,000 times.

But at Stuyvesant High School in Lower Manhattan, which is 96 percent Asian and white, you would be hard pressed to find even one kid among the 3,300 students who has ever been stopped and frisked.

The students here, at one of the city’s most elite public high schools, are known to excel at academics. They are the eager students, the ones who raise their hands in class. But ask them how many of them have ever been stopped and frisked by police, and what you get back is a sea of blank stares.

Victor Cai, is an Asian-American freshman who lives in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. He said it’s clear why he’s never been stopped and frisked: He doesn’t look like the part.

“They’re like hooded, in hoodies. They wear, like, very baggy clothing,” said Victor, describing someone who might appear suspicious to police. “And they’re African-American or Hispanic.”

Victor and his classmates point out a few other differences.

“We don’t look suspicious. We don’t look like scary criminals or terrorists, or whatever. We’re very unthreatening people,” said Benedict Bolton, a 15-year-old freshman at Stuyvesant who is white. “We’re a bunch of, to be honest, skinny white kids.”

I’m stunned that the child said blacks and Latinos look like “scary criminals or terrorists.”

The reporter who interviewed the students, Alisa Chang, is a fine journalist and I think she probably explained that police discover weapons — their justification for the search — during only 1.9 percent of their searches and that the non-hispanic whites who are stopped are more likely to have those weapons than African-Americans or Latinos, according to a report the New York Civil Liberties Union published a few weeks ago.

If the students persisted that blacks and Latino look like criminals — even after hearing the truth — their statements are even more perverse. What New York City needs is a “Not in My Name” campaign to help these kids and the rest of the city take a stand against racial profiling.


About the Author

Kelly Virella
Kelly Virella lives in an East Harlem walk-up with her husband, her bicycle and her books. She's worked as a journalist for 11 years and started this website during the summer of 2011. She fell in love with New York City during her first visit here as a 16-year-old and finally made good on her promise to move here in April 2010.


Photo courtesy of Flickr/Sea Turtle
NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, Courtesy David Shankbone Wikimedia Commons

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