Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

The NYPD’s doppelganger problem and racially unfair policing

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Another interesting post at Kottke.org:

For years, a white woman named Lisa Davis was paying the price (sometimes literally) for tickets issued to other women named Lisa Davis living in NYC.

Finally, the DMV told me that I wasn’t the victim of identity theft; there was simply another Lisa S Davis with the same birthday in New York City. Our records were crossed. When cops run a license, they don’t check the person’s address, signature, or social security numbers. They check the name and the birthday, and both the other Lisa S Davis’s and mine were the same. We were, in the eyes of the law, one person, caught in a perfect storm of DMV and NYPD idiocy.

In fighting all of these improperly filed tickets, Davis learned that most of them issued for bullshit “broken windows” misdemeanors in predominately minority neighborhoods.

It was then that it became clear to me: the reason for the tickets wasn’t that these Lisa Davises were petty criminals. The reason was likely that they lived in highly policed areas where even the smallest infractions are ticketed, the sites of “Broken Windows” policing. The reason, I thought, was that they weren’t white.

That could have been the “proof” I offered to the judge. Brownsville’s population is less than 1% white. It almost couldn’t have been me. . .

Continue reading.

And the ProPublica story he mentions at the link is well worth reading and thinking about, with empathy. Feel what it is like to be privileged—the things one doesn’t have to even think about, the comfortable illusion that one’s life is “normal, nothing special.” The essence of privilege is to be unaware of having privilege: it’s just there, and just as Queen Victoria could sit in the secure knowledge that the chair will be there when she does (or so legend has it), so a privileged person is not really aware of the privilege—but those not privileged are acutely aware of their lack of privilege. The privileged, for example, do not find it important stress to their children how important it is to be very careful in any interaction with the police, and how to act if they are stopped for no reason by the police and frisked. That’s not a big conversation for the privileged, but it is common among those oppressed by the police. But the privileged do not see that and do not want to see it. Perhaps it’s so hard on people to lose privilege because they were unaware of how extensive it was, and they knitted privilege into their sense of identity, as though it is part of themselves rather than a social convention (a meme).

It’s no much evil that privileged are deliberately evil as they are blind (though quite often the blindness is self-imposed, a deliberate turning away one’s gaze,  preserving one’s ignorance—everyone wants deniability, and recognition involves emotions that may be uncomfortable: cf. Daniel Goleman’s Vital Lies, Simple Truths: The Psychology of Self-Deception, in which he describes exactly the mechanism at work: self-deception as a way to avoid pain).

Or view it with empathy from the point of view of those neighborhoods that get charged more for the same risk. That’s a different reality, much less comfortable but equally “normal, just the way things are.” The effects of the daily stress of such profiling may well be one of the reasons that the life expectancy of African-Americans is so much less than that of White Americans.

Minority Neighborhoods Pay Higher Car Insurance Premiums Than White Areas With the Same Risk.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 April 2017 at 1:49 pm

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