Days after the verdict was released in the trial of George Zimmerman, President Obama delivered a powerful and personal speech about the damaging effects of racism and racial profiling throughout our history. So why then would he consider nominating New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, a defender of racially biased stop-and-frisk policies in my city, for Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security?
Kelly’s strong support of policies that promote racial profiling, and the harassment of the ethnic minority residents of New York, make him an undesirable candidate for Homeland Security Secretary, in an America that is working to be better than the status quo. As a lifelong resident of New York City, I’ve witnessed the negative impacts of his policies first hand.
Reports of the NYPD’s profiling of Blacks, Latinos, and Muslims are numerous. Commissioner Kelly’s Demographics Unit spied on Muslim Americans for years in secret -- disregarding their civil rights. According to the Associated Press, Kelly’s operations have “never generated a lead or triggered a terrorism investigation” in more than six years of spying on Muslims. In addition, Kelly has strongly defended Stop and Frisk, in spite of reports (using the NYPD’s own statistics) that prove the practice has done very little in the way of taking guns off the street while the policy is overwhelming applied to young people of color. While Stop and Frisk hasn’t proven very effective at stopping crime, it is very effective at spreading a mistrust of the NYPD, among Blacks and Latinos.
Mr. President, just this past Friday, you spoke of the pain and history that informs the way African Americans interpreted the Zimmerman case. You shared that you have also been racially profiled. You went on to say that not only did you pass racial profiling legislation, when you were in Illinois, but that you believe law enforcement (at the state and local level) should be trained in order to “reduce the kind of mistrust in the system that sometimes currently exists”. Mr. President, Commissioner Ray Kelly’s policies invite the very mistrust that you believe should be reduced. Not only are Kelly’s policies divisive, they are (reportedly) inefficient, and should not be elevated to the national level. We do not need a Homeland Security Secretary who protects America from ethnic minorities, we need a Homeland Security Secretary who protects all Americans.
If you agree with me that the way to address our nation’s “history of racial disparities in the application of our criminal laws” (as President Obama said), please join me by signing my petition telling President Obama that nominating Ray Kelly to lead the Department of Homeland Security is NOT the path forward.