Stop-and-frisk targets people of color. Last year the NYPD stopped close to 700,000 people (up from about 90,000 a decade ago) and last year, 87% of the people stopped were black or Latino. Nine out of ten were totally innocent—meaning once stopped, they were neither arrested nor ticketed.
As a Buddhist practitioner who has taken the precepts, it’s difficult for me to remain generous, to see the perfection in others and to recognize my identity with them in the face of a policy that gives overt expression to racial bias. Zen practice is about truth, and it seems plain wrong to me that the superficial classification of skin tone is seen as legal grounds for suspicion. I myself am literally afraid of the police. I never consider contacting them for assistance because I was conditioned to fear how I might be treated. How should I tell my son to deal with the police when those who are charged with protecting his safety might hurt him for no reason? As a practitioner, I am seriously struggling with whether it would be right for me to pass my fear on to my son.
I understand that law enforcement faces a difficult dilemma in fulfilling the charge to protect the public. Indeed, the police give up a lot in order to serve the greater good of society. It is the sacrifices of many of these officers, on the streets and in the military, that provide us with the freedoms some of us enjoy. But let’s face it, in our society some of us are freer than others. And, while the responsibility to protect the public carries sacrifice for the officers, it also carries concurrent responsibilities.