(Rain in the forecast: location change at bottom)

The New York Police Department goes back to court today to try and prove that stop-and-frisk – which stopped and frisked more young black men in 2011 than there are young black men in New York City – does not racially profile.

For anyone living in Bedford-Stuyvesant, East Harlem, Jackson Heights, or the South Bronx, it’s totally obvious that stop-and-frisk is racial profiling, but being totally obvious isn’t enough for a court of law. So the Center for Constitutional Rights has put on a load of statistical evidence (that nearly 90% of those stopped by the NYPD were Black or Latino; that for 51% of the stops, the officer cited ‘furtive movements’ as the justification for the stop; that despite citing the recovery of concealed weapons as the reason for stop-and-frisk, only 1.9% of stops resulted in a weapon found), and will next week put on experts to parse the data. There will also be testimony about how the hyper-policing  makes those living in a targeted neighborhood feel like they are living in “an outside prison.”

“Totally obvious” + rock solid statistics is still not enough. To nail the constitutional claim that “stops and frisks are being conducted predominately on Black and Latino individuals on the basis of race” in violation of the Equal Protection Clause, the CCR lawyers need to show intent. They will need to put on a witness who can testify to a supervisory officer saying to his beat officers: “I command you to go stop and frisk Black and Latino individuals on the basis of race.” It’s an inanely high standard of proof that has, for decades, protected racist institutions from civil lawsuits alleging racial discrimination.

But ah, check it – a Latino cop got so fed up about being stopped himself many times in the Bronx that he secretly recorded his supervisor’s instructions on who to stop. CCR put Officer Serrano on the stand yesterday and played his recording of Deputy Inspector Christopher McCormack telling Serrano: The problem was, what, male blacks. And I told you at roll call, and I have no problem telling you this, male blacks 14 to 20, 21.” Serrano was also the second officer to testify about stop-and-frisks being driven by the need to meet arrest quotas.

The lawsuit, and the impressive community organizing that has accompanied it, has made it OK to talk about racial profiling in mixed company. It has also made clear that the legal standards to prove racial profiling are ridiculous. Floyd v. City of New York was filed more than five years ago and was only made possible because of statistics collected from an earlier lawsuit, filed in 1999. By the time it’s over, litigation costs will likely be over a million dollars.

Black and Latino folks are racially profiled every day. Sometimes multiple times before the second cup of coffee. But given that no one has 14 years and a million bucks to prove it a judge, how to respond?

Last week, a nasty little white man with alcohol on his breath came up on Queerfit’s Tuesday evening workout and demanded to know whose car was parked in the drive and whether anyone “is even from the neighborhood.” Last month, while we were working out under the awning in the MARTA station, a white MARTA cop came up and was very unhappy about us doing overhead squats. Nevermind the people waiting for the bus were cheering us on, and that boot camps full of white ladies use MARTA stations all the time. “You can’t do that in my station,” he said to us, and then into the radio clipped on his shoulder, “I need back-up, right now.”

In retrospect, I should have accidentally dropped the barbell on his foot.

How to respond, how to respond? On the individual level, everybody who has been regularly profiled has developed a series of responses, conscious and unconscious, physiological and psychological. There’s been some good discussion about these individual responses – how they can be both protective and harmful, whether it is helpful to confront racial profiling as an act of microagression, etc.

But how to respond as a group? How to respond, in particular, as a predominately Black, multi-racial group with different experiences and privileges when it comes to systemic racism and racial microaggression?

To put it more bluntly, what are we going to do the next time a racist a**wipe comes up on us in the middle of a workout?

Well. That’ll be a topic for our Spring meeting this Saturday. It’ll be the third agenda item after we go over (1) outreach for the Spring and (2) how we want to spend what’s left from our squat-a-thon.

With a 70% chance of rain, the workout itself will be at our rain location:

Lang-Carson Park in Reynoldstown, under the covered basketball court.  The street address is 100 Flat Shoals Ave., turning off from Wylie St. just west of Weatherby St. The usual time, 10:00. Then we’ll have our Spring meeting at Park Grounds starting at 11:00. All are welcome, to both the 10:00 workout and the 11:00 at Park Grounds.