April 3, 2017

Racial Discrimination

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Being Black in New York City

Out of the eight million inhabitants of New York City, approximately two million of these inhabitants identify as black or African American alone according to the census taken in 2010. And even though New York City is thought to be one of the most liberal cities in the country, it doesn’t mean that racial discrimination doesn’t exist in the city. Cases such as the death of Eric Garner in 2014 is just one instance of aggression towards a specific racial group. But racial discrimination is not always obvious. In fact, the system also discriminates based on race. We will explore New York City’s African American community and focus on the systemic racial discrimination against them.

Racial Demographics

The “melting pot” is a well-known nickname for New York City, and it refers to the diverse groups of people that inhabit it. However, a closer look at a racial demographic map shows that the term “salad bowl” may be a more accurate nickname as people tend to cluster along racial lines:

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Unemployment and Poverty

So why is New York City a salad bowl? Although there are many underlining factors that may help explain this (such as people’s preference to live near others with similar backgrounds), one major factor may be economic disparities between racial groups. A breakdown of poverty rates by racial group shows that even in New York City, racial minorities tend to be above the poverty rates of the total population of New York City. (Data provided by CEO Poverty Research.)

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The data suggests that perhaps New York City is a salad bowl not just because people like to be with people from similar backgrounds but because certain racial groups are more likely to be under the poverty line which makes it difficult for them to move into another neighborhood. As a result, they tend to stay in neighborhoods which may have inhabitants from similar backgrounds. We can also see in the map below that in areas where black people cluster, the rent tends to be cheaper than areas where white people cluster. Areas where whites cluster, on the other hand, have more housing units that costs at least $750,000 than in areas where minorities are.

Not so fun fact: Some New York City public schools rely heavily on property taxes to fund their school. This means that poor neighborhoods will have public schools with limited resources. And since many African Americans as well as other racial minorities live in such neighborhood, they are placed at a disadvantage from early childhood which plays a factor in causing a greater economic disparity between racial groups.

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Not only are there economic disparities between racial groups, some racial groups are more likely to be policed than others. The most controversial tactic is stop-and-frisk which involves police stopping random civilians and questioning them. What is controversial about this tactic is the fact that the majority of civilians stopped by police are black, which made up about 54% of the total stops in 2015.

(Click on “Chart” to see racial bias in stop-and-frisk by neighborhood.)

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Not only is it racially bias, but about 80% of New Yorkers who were stopped were found to be innocent according to the New York Civil Liberties Union, which brings up the question: is stop-and-frisk necessary?

Let’s see if stop-and-frisk has helped lower crime in the city:

Bump, Philip. “The facts about stop-and-frisk in New York City.” The Washington Post, 26 Sept. 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/09/21/it-looks-like-rudy-giuliani-convinced-donald-trump-that-stop-and-frisk-actually-works/

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Data shows that crime rates have begun to decline even before the implementation of stop-and-frisk. Additionally, the data suggests that even with the increase in stop-and-frisk during the Bloomberg administration, there is little evidence that it actually helped lower crime dramatically.

Police have begun to crack down more on minor crimes such as fare-beating in recent years. Not only does this target blacks more than other racial groups, it also targets the poor who may not have money to spare for the subway fare. And as we discussed earlier, all non-white racial groups tend to be above the average poverty rate of New York City.

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Unfortunately, even for the same charges, whites are more likely to get adjournment in contemplation of a dismissal (ACD or ACOD) than blacks. ACD means that the case will most likely be dismissed and if it is dismissed, the person will not get it on his or her criminal record. On the other hand, blacks are more likely to be sentenced for fare-beating which leaves a record and this may severely affect the person’s future such when he or she is finding employment especially since many of the people arrested for fare-beating are below the age of 35.

Combat Discrimination

New Yorkers have been trying to make a difference in their city over many decades. In fact, one of the largest civil rights demonstration was in New York City! In 1964, as many as 450,000 students boycotted their public school in an effort to get the city’s school board to stop de facto segregation.

Do you want to make a difference? You can get involved with the Black Lives Matter movement. Not only does the organization fight for anti-Black sentiments, it also tries to fight racial discrimination that is embedded in the system.

Also, it doesn’t hurt to know your rights.

Need to report discrimination?
Go to…
The Official Website of the City of New York
Or for discrimination in the workplace go to
New York State Department of Labor

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