How the North does Jim Crow

Originally published at:


Any law that exists but is usually not enforced can be abused in this way.

We (the Netherlands) recently got a new law that states you have to be able to identify yourself (carry ID) if you are stopped by police. This is not intended to always be applied but will often be tacked on to another fine just to increase the amount due.

Public inebriation is illegal, however the cities, in the weekends, are filled with drunk people going to and from bars and parties. Who decides when you are drunk enough to warrant a fine? Usually it is only issued when you are loud/belligerent/urinating in public, but it would not surprise me at all if it was awarded to colored people more frequently then to white people.

There are loads more, I think they should all be changed. The law should be clear and not open to interpretation.


I am of the opinion that any law that is selectively enforced shouldn’t be in the books at all, and that courts should check whether laws and other ordinances are universally enforced before using them to punish anybody accused of violating them.


Nonsense! Why, some of my best friends just happen to be… you know… them.


Loitering laws in the US have been selectively used to punish and harass anyone deemed by law enforcement to be questionable for years and years. It’s no accident that there are always laws on the books which allow authority to be authoritarian.


Yes and no. I think it’s more complicated than that. ‘Zero tolerance’ policies don’t really work either. Policing should be done by people carefully assessing each situation, not by robots just blankly applying rules.

And yes, this means that you need lots of checks & balances to make sure the police does not discriminate against certain groups. It’s a hard to solve problem and imho can’t be solved by just following the rules.

However, I do agree laws which are in practice hardly ever enforced (like the ‘public inebriation’ law) should be re-evaluated from time to time and maybe adapted.


The tolerant North:


Folks always forget where the cotton mills were.


I realize that the laws end up creating de facto segregation and injustice. Even in coastal Maine, where I grew up and almost everyone was white, they were used disproportianately to punish the young and poor. If there’s truly no way to have these laws without them being tools of supremacy, do away with them for sure

One thing to consider, and I realize I’m dippimg into “Guns don’t kill people…” territory is that ALL laws, including drug laws, property laws, murder laws, domestic violence laws, etc…are also tools of disproportionate oppression, and doing away with all of those would be a tougher sell, so maybe the root of the problem is elsewhere)

That said, I’m a bit of a fascist when it comes to public spaces. if we’re voting on ways to balance the scales, I’d vote for more enforcement for powerful grouos, not less for everyone. I believe good fences make good neighbors, and in cities every space, including your apartment is qausi-public, those fences have to be in the form of sensible noise, smell and festivity boundaries. The swing of one person’s public party has to end at the tip of the nose of a person reading a book, or having a party of their own.

Of course, wealthier people always have the option/money to act out in private spaces, pissing drunk on golf courses and off the sides of yaughts, so any true balancing would involve the funding of more public festivity spaces, provided by progressive taxation.

ETA: just for the record, I’ve never called the police on anyone WRT these laws…and don’t plan to…


Is that a vote in an ideal world, or a vote in a world which includes the realities of US policing?

At present, more enforcement = more dead people. And that trend is not getting better.


Yes, quite ideal, and very far from where we are at. you’d definitely have to kill the root of white/wealth supremacy first, and completely flush and reform policing, so yeah, not holding my breath. Honestly, the police aren’t even the tool for the job, even if we’re talking best case.

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Jaywalking, too:

On a side note, being from Boston, where jaywalking is so common I wasn’t sure what it was, I was surprised when a friend of mine described looking both ways and crossing an empty street in Seattle and then being “pulled over” by police on bicycles and given a ticket (she’s white, btw). But I would gather the reasoning here is that it puts more money in the pocket of the state/city government? Because all those smart people there know how to preserve life and limb by looking both ways before crossing, yes? So it’s really a walking tax, then?


Yep, and more importantly (to them), to profit.

Seems like most people remember the protests in Ferguson as being about the murder of Mike Brown, but the issues were much bigger than that. A community commonly stereotyped as a pack of unregenerate thieves has been relentlessly thieved against itself – by the very systems that claim to be in place for their protection.

To understand some of the distrust of police that has fueled protests in Ferguson, Mo., consider this: In 2013, the municipal court in Ferguson — a city of 21,135 people — issued 32,975 arrest warrants for nonviolent offenses, mostly driving violations.

A new report released the week after 18-year old Michael Brown was shot and killed in Ferguson helps explain why. ArchCity Defenders, a St. Louis-area public defender group, says in its report that more than half the courts in St. Louis County engage in the “illegal and harmful practices” of charging high court fines and fees on nonviolent offenses like traffic violations — and then arresting people when they don’t pay. The report singles out courts in three communities, including Ferguson.

Thomas Harvey, who started the organization to provide legal services to the poor in the St. Louis region and is the lead author of the report, says residents, especially in Ferguson, have come to see the use of fines and fees as a way for courts to collect money from residents who are often the least able to pay.

“Folks have the impression that this is a form of low-level harassment that isn’t about public safety. It’s about money,” he says.

The ArchCity Defenders report argues that this resentment is justified. Last year, Ferguson collected $2.6 million in court fines and fees. It was the city’s second-biggest source of income of the $20 million it collected in revenues.


Can we all agree that it is rude to spend “countless hours” in any establishment without buying something?


For a long time Seattle was un-famous for this. People waiting at crosswalks at 3am, etc. Not sure its true anymore. In the early 00’s the mayor made some push to enforce jaywalking laws for a few months and the police wrote a lot of tickets.

I think it was a great expression of the ‘liberalism meets worship for the automobile’ thing in Seattle.

Cannot we all agree that selectively enforcing rules is disgusting? Set whatever rules you want on your own establishment, but enforce them without disproportionately impacting the disadvantaged.


Maybe, but more to the point, can we all agree that it’s not criminal behavior? And even if it were, enforcement should not be racially disproportionate?


Ever stop to think about why people might be doing that?


Yes, but a lot of laws simply should not exist, and do exist only to facilitate discrimination.


Yup. Regionalism is just another form of bigotry, a particularly vile form in that it’s used by privileged people to wash their hands of social injustice by pretending their shit doesn’t stink. The dearth of self-awareness of those who deploy it is dumbfounding.


Not the racist Starbucks manager. She never called the cops on the countless white people who sit in Starbucks using it as free office space, but she called the cops on the two black real estate agents who sat there for five fucking minutes waiting for a friend to join them.