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Short Notes: We Are Powerful Beyond Measure

by Jose Vilson on December 9, 2012

in Short Notes

Michael Jackson asks Manny Pacquiao If He’s OK

A few notes:

Quotable:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.’ We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson

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Bowl of Cocoa Puffs

Bowl of Cocoa Puffs

In high school, my family used to get assorted flavors of high-sugar cereals. Frosted Flakes, Froot Loops, and Corn Pops frequented the top of my fridge, and every morning, my brother and I would have a huge bowl of them just because. We’d pour so much milk into our bowls that we bought a gallon of milk every week (I later learned this wasn’t considered normal). When we found the magical crunch of chocolate cocoa puffs, we dug in. We’d have a bowl for breakfast, and a bowl on Friday and Saturday nights, just to hold us over during our midnight video game marathons.

One morning, as I started eating my puffs, I started to reflect on my experience in high school with serious doubt after an incident that made me keenly aware of my skin color and social caste in the school. The teacher at the time, revered by all, made it obvious that he didn’t think I belonged in the honors class. The looks on the other students in the class (all white) signaled to me that perhaps complaining about the incident would be like barking up the wrong tree. Some laughed uncomfortably while others stood silent, hoping it would go away.

Once I snapped out, I noticed a little chocolate puff floating in this big bowl of milk, bobbing up and down as it sailed around the inner rim. My first real understanding of W.E.B. DuBois’ double consciousness.

Currently, a group of concerned advocacy groups including the NAACP, Latino Justice PRLDEF, and the Center for Law and Justice at Medgar Evers College, filed a complaint against Stuyvesant High School’s (and New York City Department of Education’s) use of a specialized high school exam as the sole determinant for entry into their school. I’m inclined to disagree with Mike Bloomberg’s contention that having a test is the same as basing a student’s entry on merit. As with any standardized test, institutions should take into account the sheer volume of preparation some parents undertake in order to make sure their student succeeds on those, and lots of that can be predicted economically.

In spaces where one measure coincidentally attracted only a couple of groups towards a place of prestige, we need to make sure all kids get a fair look.

More importantly, once schools like Stuyvesant address the diversity in their admissions process, then they’ll have to address what happens once the few who make it do get in there. Other such schools that require multiple measures, like interviews, grades, and teacher recommendation letters, at least give a shot to those who freeze up for those two hours of the special admissions test. Despite whatever impressions my friends and family had about my experience in high school, make no mistake: it was hard. Academically, I handled school rather well my first two years there, then proceeded to dip my junior and senior years as my teachers demanded more. Socially, I joined as many non-athletic clubs as I could and volunteered at my middle school just to keep me grounded.

But, the more “H”s and “AP”s I saw next to my class schedules, the less I saw less of “me”s.

In order to adopt, I had to assimilate to some of the traditions and linguistics my friends had. My r’s became flatter, my s’ sharper, my t’s enunciated. Frankly, without my friends who moved up with me to this school, I might have completely lost touch with the very community I represented. Thus, people like me, unbeknownst to us develop two identities, one that can shift their faces amongst the hoods and the baggy jeans, and the other with shaven face and proper collar.

What becomes of these unique intelligent ones once they go into predominantly White classrooms?

I do get it, too. My high school prepared me for the rigors of Syracuse University, where Dave Chappelle once joked “When I looked down [from the plane], all I saw was White … and then there was the snow.” At this stage of the game, going to a truly academically rigorous school often means going to a place with very little cultural diversity, a sad state indeed. Few schools have a good, balanced student body and high academic standards that consistently challenge students … with a staff that knows how to handle it appropriately. Even then, sometimes the groups just stick in their racial and cultural groups with a few tokens on either side.

As I stared at the bowl with the floating puff, I noticed that the bowl of milk had also gotten a chocolate flavor as a result of the puffs that once floated there. Once we dedicate ourselves to adding more puffs, we leave an indelible mark on each other. We might work well in isolation, but we work much better when we complement each other as a whole.

Jose, who switched to Special K and Honey Nut Cheerios a long time ago …

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On Saturday, NAACP President Benjamin Jealous spoke to the Netroots Nation crowd around one of the organization’s pivotal efforts: ending New York City’s stop-and-frisk policy [and preventing said policy from spreading to other major cities]. His impassioned speech made me tap my feet, blanking out to the sounds of an aggression unaddressed by the larger progressive communities. While he spoke, I noticed two halves of my table, one who listened intently on what Jealous had delivered to a mostly Caucasian, Democratic crowd and the other faction a set of people who would scream bloody murder if such a policy affected their clique, but it didn’t, so they ignored it.

Alas, for so many of us, the stop-and-frisk policy aligns with the general dispassion towards the condition of others locally except when directly affected. In a town replete with activists and do-gooders, young Black and Latino men getting stopped and frisked by police officers on the basis of their looks follows the narrative of certain populations somehow deserving such treatment. In this narrative, young men of color commit the most crime, do the most harm to society, put the biggest burden on their general populace, so when they do get stopped randomly for no apparent reason, that helps reduce crimes that haven’t been committed yet.

In this narrative, we get to perpetuate the stereotype of this specific group as local terrorists. And it’s wrong.

As a native of NYC, I can say I’ve never been stopped and frisk. Unfortunately, that makes me the exception that proves the rule. The statistics lie so heavily against people that look like me that I often wonder how I avoided such a fate. Maybe a cab finally came down for me. Maybe I didn’t stop at my favorite bar that one night. Maybe I had on my lucky shoes the few times it could have happened to me. It’s happened to friends who I had appointments with that day or it had just happened to. On their way to school, back from school, to their girlfriend’s house, on their way to church, to their mother’s house.

Home.

Stop and frisk doesn’t just emasculate the (very often) innocent; it continues the legacy of this specific group as second-class citizens. How do we expect citizens of this country to believe in this country’s values when we don’t offer the same rights and liberties to all of them? As a matter of fact, we can’t seek peace across the Atlantic when we can’t stop the war happening across the street.

As a young father of color, I now have the additional responsibility of teaching my son how to prepare for the cops. Much the way I have to advocate for improved curriculum and de-escalation of testing in our public schools, I must advocate for improved relationships and de-escalation of aggression on behalf of the NYPD. A big step towards that is by ending stop-and-frisk.

If you’re in my table listening to this, no longer can you claim naivete. We need you to end it, too.

Jose, who needs another change of venue …

p.s. – In case you need information, my colleague Marvin Bing, Northeast Regional Director of the NAACP and a Harlem native, shared this with me, so I’m hoping you’ll read up, too.

What “Stop and Frisk” Means:  The situation in which a police officer who is suspicious of an individual detains the person and runs his hands lightly over the suspect’s outer garments to determine if the person is carrying a concealed weapon.

One of the most controversial police procedures is the stop and frisk search. This type of limited search occurs when police confront a suspicious person in an effort to prevent a crime from taking place. The police frisk (pat down) the person for weapons and question the person.

A stop is different from an arrest. An arrest is a lengthy process in which the suspect is taken to the police station and booked, whereas a stop involves only a temporary interference with a person’s liberty. If the officer uncovers further evidence during the frisk, the stop may lead to an actual arrest, but if no further evidence is found, the person is released.

Unlike a full search, a frisk is generally limited to a patting down of the outer clothing. If the officer feels what seems to be a weapon, the officer may then reach inside the person’s clothing. If no weapon is felt, the search may not intrude further than the outer clothing.

Articles:

NAACP President on why we are standing against Stop and Frisk
Over 4 Years, Nearly 52,000 Stops on one block; Brooklyn
Why Stop and Frisk must End- Huffington Post
Keys Facts:
1. In 2011, NYC officers made 685,724 stops as part of the “stop-and-frisk” policy. Of that group, 605,328 people were determined not to have engaged in any unlawful behavior. [NYCLU]

2. Only 5.37% of all stops in a recent five-year period resulted in an arrest. In short, many people stopped did nothing wrong. [NYT, 5/17/12]

3. In 2009, 36% of the time officer failed to list an acceptable “suspected crime.” Reasonable suspicion of a crime is required to make a stop. [NYT,5/17/12]

4. More than half of all stops last year were conducted “because the individual displayed ‘furtive movement’ — which is so vague as to be meaningless.”[NYT, 5/14/12]

5. Of those frisked in 2011, a weapon was found just 1.9% of the time. Frisks are supposed to be conducted “only when an officer reasonably suspects the person has a weapon.” [NYCLU]

6. 85% of those stopped were black or Hispanic even though those groups make up about half of NYC’s population. [NYT, 5/17/12]

7. Young black and Latino men account for 4.7% of NYC’s population but 41.6% of the stops in 2011. [NYCLU]

8. The number of stops involving young black men in 2011 (168,124) exceed the city’s population of young black men (158,406).[NYT, 5/15/12]

9. Even in overwhelmingly white neighborhoods, police stopped more blacks than whites.[NYT, 5/15/12]

10. In 2012, police are on pace to make more than 800,000 stops, more than twice the population of Miami. [NYT, 5/15/12]

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What If The NAACP Is Actually Right?

June 7, 2011 Jose
kidscrying.jpg

Someone recently tagged me to this piece from What About Our Daughters. I’ll let you read the rest of it on your own, but this is why misinformation is so dangerous: As I understand it, and readers I invite you to correct me if I’m wrong, charter schools ARE public schools. So the battle isn’t […]

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