Racism continues to be a problem in New York City, most notably in the area of law enforcement, as with stop and frisk and police brutality. However, experiences with discrimination also occur in the home countries of Caribbean immigrants. For instance, the Dread Act in Dominica was exceedingly discriminatory against Rastafari, and resulted in threatening conditions for the Rastas during the mid 20th century. Stop and frisk and police brutality cases in New York City, along with the Dread Act in Dominica reveal the challenges of addressing issues of racism and discrimination in the Americas.
New York City
Stop and frisk has been a very serious problem in New York City for some time now because of its connection to racial profiling. Most cases of stop and frisk are seemingly always targeting the minorities, without probable cause, thus making it a racial issue. This has frustrated many individuals in New York City, and many have reacted by protesting against the system, and marching the streets of New York City:
Along with stop and frisk, there have been numerous cases of police brutality throughout the decades that have dealt great injustice to the minority Blacks and Caribbean immigrants:
In 1997, Abner Louima, a Haitian immigrant, was savagely beaten and sodomized with a broomstick by police officer Justin Volpe. Causing critical damage to Louima, police officer Volpe even threatened to kill Louima and his family if he told anyone.
In 1999, Amadou Diallo, an immigrant from Guinea, was ruthlessly murdered when undercover officers shot 41 rounds when Diallo was “supposedly reaching for a gun,” when in actuality he was reaching for his wallet to identify himself.
In 2003, the police raided and threw a stun grenade into Alberta Spruil’s house in Harlem, and arrested her without probable cause. During the tragic event, Spruil pleaded for help, stating she had a heart condition, nevertheless her condition was not acknowledged, and she died within the hour after the raid.
A more recent case is the death of Eric Garner in 2014. This barbaric event can be explicitly seen via videos taken at the scene, in which Garner is put in a lethal chokehold that ultimately kills him:
In Dominica, Rastafari has existed since the 1970s, and it is uniquely connected with the physical appearance of “Dreads.” Dreads can be understood as Rastafari’s general resistance stance, noting their relationship with the larger movement solely by saying that they, identify with the force and energy of Rastafari, along with the deification of Haile Selassie. Bob Marley was another pivotal figure of the Rastafari movement that helped widespread the belief throughout the world.
Under this horrendous Dread Act: individuals wearing dread locks and who appeared in public were guilty of an offense and subject to an arrest without warrant. The parliamentary government enabled civilians to kill or severely injure a person with dreadlocks, who was found illegally inside a dwelling house. To add to this list of atrocities, law enforcement had the right to kill Rastafari, which resulted in a plethora of innocent deaths. During this time, groups of mercenaries were hired as well by the government to “clean up” the neighborhood and eradicate the people with dreads. In the video below, Nelly Stharre and Trevy Felix sing a very soulful duet about the horrible occurrences during the Dread Act:
Community issues of racism and discrimination are very prevalent to the Caribbean individuals in New York City and even in countries in the Caribbean, such as Dominica. The act of stop and frisk along with police brutality in New York City evidently infringe upon the rights of the minorities consisting of Blacks and Caribbeans. In Dominica, the Dread Act utterly annihilated personal rights of the Rastafari, and discriminated the physical appearance of Dreads. These unfortunate events deal great injustice and go beyond the issues of racism and discrimination towards the Caribbean individuals by ostracizing them into segregated sects, and treating them not only unequally, but also inhumanely.