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Standing while black

Some have claimed the “end of racism” in this country. The most recent claim comes from the Republican Party. As reported in the National Journal, this past Sunday morning (December 1), the Republican National Committee tweeted that on the commemoration of the 58th anniversary of the famous arrest of Rosa Parks after she refused to give up her seat in the “white only” part of the bus: "Today we remember Rosa Parks' bold stand and her role in ending racism."

Apparently the GOP “tweeters” had not heard about the three black basketball players at Edison High in Rochester, New York, who were arrested while waiting for a bus to pick them up for a practice game. According to a story in Alter Net the students “were charged with obstructing pedestrian traffic and disorderly conduct, but they say they were doing nothing but standing. While there was no school last Wednesday, the coach of the varsity basketball team had arranged for them to be picked up by a bus to go to a scrimmage match.”  

The police claimed that they were “blocking the sidewalk and the entrance to a store." They were arrested for “disorderly conduct.”

The police refused to give in even after the coach of the team, Jacob Scott, tried to intervene, explaining to the police that they were just waiting for the school bus to come and take them to the scrimmage.

Another report noted that “The boys were with about a dozen basketball teammates” and their coach had arranged for a pick-up at a central meeting spot. An officer asked the boys to disperse and they refused. The young men say they tried to explain to him they were waiting for a school bus. The officer arrested three of the players.” Scott said that one of the officers told him “If you don't disperse, you're going to get booked as well.”

Their parents had to pay $200 to bail them out on Thanksgiving eve.

A member of the school board showed up to complain, saying that "I think the charges should be immediately dropped and I think the district attorney's office should be stepping in an looking at these kinds of matters." They are due to appear in court on December 11.

The GOP also missed a story about a 16-year-old black youth who spent three years at the infamous Rikers Island jail in New York City “without ever having been convicted or put on trial.” The youth was walking home from a party in the Bronx “when he was arrested on a tip that he robbed someone three weeks earlier.” He couldn’t pay the $10,000 bail and so he was held there while waiting for a court appearance. He finally filed a law suit and when this happened the charges “were mysteriously dropped and he was released, as first reported by WABC-TV.” 

His arrest was part of an overly aggressive policy of “stop and frisk” by the NYPD, which was ordered halted by a federal judge back in January of this year. As reported by Think Progress, A federal judge on Tuesday struck down a key component of the New York Police Department’s aggressive stop-and-frisk program, under which police stopped more young black men in 2011than the city’s total population of young black men. 

The research literature on racial bias within both the juvenile and criminal justice system is long and dates back more than 100 years. Space does not permit a complete listing of this research, but much of it can be found on my web site. Other books that I would recommend include: the Color of Justice, Class, Race, Gender and Crime, The New Jim Crow and Unequal Under Law.

Update: As reported by Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC on his show "Last Word" the local district attorney dropped the charges.  According to a report from a Rochester web site, “After reviewing the facts associated with these arrests, I have decided to dismiss the charges in the interest of justice,” said District Attorney Sandra Doorley in a statement Tuesday.

Keywords: racial disparities, Randall Shelden, youth

Posted in Blog, Justice by Geography

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