How racist traffic stops criminalize black people, and what to do about it


#1

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/08/08/how-racist-traffic-stops-crimi.html


#2

That means that racialized people are assessed more fines.

Racialized people? Is this the new black?


#3

All of this would result in fewer fines being levied, and so would seem to result in a (short term) reduction in a city’s income. Most cities are probably loathe to do this. It seems a necessary first step would have to be taken, before cities agree to this:

  • Stop using traffic and municipal fines as a source of city income.

I don’t see that many cities would agree to that, which is an unfortunate result of short-term vs long-term thinking. If fewer people were caught in a vicious cycle of debt and law violations, the city would probably be healthier overalll and have a larger tax base.

Maybe this is something that needs to be incentivized from the state/federal government down, awarding cities with grants if they disassociate their budgets from fines?


#4

We must disarm the police. Too many weapons, too much power, and they operate above the law. They must be subject to civil society or we can do without them.

For starters, let go after the pensions.


#5

Are you mad? Our cities need the revenue from those fines to pay for all the cops to levee them.


#6

I’m glad the article mentions the day -fine system. Making any fines from the court system proportional to income would break the exploitative model of running a city on fines and charges.

Ending the Kafkaesque cycle of being punished for being too poor to afford to be punished, would be another positive effect.


#7

Racialize: to impose a racial interpretation on; place in a racial context.

In this context, I assume it’s referring to this idea: White people in the US are regarded as “regular” (i.e. their race is not a notable thing about them). For someone who’s not white, their race is often seen as highly significant, with bearing on their personal attributes. i.e. society has racialized them.


#8

Stop using criminal fines and penalties as a source of any income, whatsoever.

Fines and penalties should be blinded from day-to-day institutional concerns.


#9

Obviously, ceasing to frame things from a race perspective helps.

Another framing which contributes to the problem is the notion of criminal acts versus criminal persons. Some might dismiss this as being semantic handwaving, but it makes a huge difference in how societies define and deal with crime. The criminal acts model is that certain acts are forbidden, and if anybody infringes them, a penalty is exacted from them. Then their “debt to society” has been paid in full. The criminal persons model is that the problem is mainly not the act, but the person. So their debt to society can never be repaid. Instead they are stigmatized as a different class of person. As can be easily observed, this class is then deprived and resorts to further crime, resulting in a self-confirming loop. This scenario and racialization reenforce each other.

That’s debatable. White people are all immigrants from elsewhere, specifically Europe. Not that there is anything wrong with being either white or European. But this arguably does not constitute the baseline population of the Americas.


#10

They missed one particular important issue: Raise the IQ standards for PD/PO around the USA from 90 to say at least 135. Then will get PD/PO that can critical think[ers], just maybe though.

[note sadly the sarcasm]


#11

This is so much not semantic hand waving; kudos to you for calling it out!

So why did you rebut @zikzak 's comment, when what he says is a direct corollary to what you’ve said :grey_question:


#12

I really like this idea, but I’m having some trouble imagining how to implement it.

Suggestions?


#13

I suspect @zikzak meant that whites in the US are regarded as “regular” within the context of US “mainstream” culture.

E.g. the band Soul Coughing had a song called “White Girl”, which was inspired by the singer’s realization that when a news story was about a black girl it would call her a “black girl” whereas when a news story was about a white girl it would simply refer to her as a “girl”.


#14

I did not rebut @zikzak’s comment. I agree with @Boundegar’s take on the process of racialization. But I disagree with the content of it, that Eurocentric culture is the presumptive norm in the Americas. When I hear “American”, I certainly do not think “white”, although I am sure that there are many who do. When hear “white” I think “European”, YMMV. I think of the Americas as being a synthesis of the indigenous cultures with lots of more recent additions from elsewhere.

I understand that, I simply don’t agree with it. Then again I think of “mainstream” as being a fabrication of a cultural “elite”, who are generally a very small minority.


#15

Help me out here, then…

What would you call it when black people are referred to as “black people” while white people are referred to as simply “people”?

Like I think we’re trying to point to an actual factual state of affairs out there in the world, not just express an opinion or prescription.


#16

the fines revenue should not be part of the budget of the fining agency. they could e.g. redirected to the national fund for health care or pensions - both are already tax-supported so it’s not wasted money, but the local institution has no benefits for unfair penalty practices.

but this has - as always - two sides: towns could stop traffic controls altogether, an unwished outcome as speeding et al is dangerous for uninvolved third parties


#17

Yeah, but I have a hard time believing it would pass. The rich are too used to being able to flaunt traffic laws and just pay minor fines, and we all know who decides what laws pass.


#18

That’s true, and interesting.


#19

I would say that at the least fine money should go to the next administrative unit above the unit issuing the fines: i.e. if a municipality creates a law that has an associated fine, when assessed the fine would be turned over to the county. But as a practical matter, I think it would be better to just say that all fines levied by a state be placed directly in the state’s general fund. This means that if your municipality or county or law enforcement division hammer a specific group of people for fines, you won’t see any specific benefit for having done so.


#20

Referred to by whom? Might it not make a difference who is speaking? What you are describing does sound like “black people” being racialized by “white people”. The problem is presuming that that is somehow normative across different groups of people. I am not black, but might a person of that culture refer to a person as “white person”? Yes, it is factual that some people do so. But one group presuming that they are “the norm” has no factual basis that carries over to anybody else. Neither being an unexamined presumption nor a belligerent assertion would make it factual. Can there be any consensus devoid of context?

ETA: I am happy to discuss it, but for purposes of this discussion, it might be easier to not worry too much about what I call it. I’d rather the topic not be derailed over terminology unless it’s helpful/necessary.