Stop-and-frisk takes center stage in NYC mayoral race

OPINION - Stop-and-frisk in many ways has become a bellwether for this mayoral democratic primary, similar to how the 2008 war in Iraq, became the central tenet of the 2008 presidential democratic primary...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

While the national media is winding down their focus on the Real Housewives of Carlos Danger, New Yorkers are beginning to actually focus in on the upcoming Democratic mayoral primary this September.

With former Congressman Anthony Weiner’s chances slipping away with the speed which you can send a text, the three leading candidates City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, former comptroller Bill Thompson, and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and their individual positions on the NYPD’s controversial stop and frisk policy, has taken center stage.

Stop-and-frisk in many ways has become a bellwether for this mayoral democratic primary, similar to how the 2008 war in Iraq, became the central tenet of the 2008 presidential democratic primary.

Echoes of 2008

In that race, Senator Barack Obama’s opposition to the war, from the very beginning and before it was the popular position, put him ahead of the inevitable candidate Senator Hillary Clinton.That single position allowed many progressives to embrace the then unknown junior Senator from Illinois and perhaps without it, we wouldn’t have a President Obama today.

Stop-and-frisk allows the NYPD to randomly stop and search someone if they have a “reasonable suspicion” and that suspicion more often than not, is of black and brown men.  Statistics show that the NYPD has stopped more black men via stop-and-frisk than the number of black men that live in the five boroughs.  Furthermore, many more whites who are stopped and frisked are found with weapons than their black counterparts.

In this New York City mayoral primary, with Weiner all but out of contention, second place de Blasio is looking to gain support in the now splintered Black community.  With the recent endorsement of actor and activist Harry Belafonte, primarily due to de Blasio’s opposition to stop-and-frisk as well as his support for unions, de Blasio is looking to gain traction where he previously lagged behind his competitors.

Current frontrunner Speaker Quinn is on record supporting stop-and-frisk, while former comptroller Bill Thompson has recently expressed opposition to stop-and-frisk and racial profiling while at the same time, opposing to pieces of legislation trying to reform the practice.

Battle for the black vote

De Blasio recently said of Thompson who invoked the name of Trayvon Martin to decry racial profiling,“[h]e can’t have it both ways.  Some councilmembers and obviously some mayoral candidates are aiding and abetting Michael Bloomberg by agreeing with him that we don’t need a racial profiling ban.”  De Blasio was referring to Thompson’s opposition to the stop-and-frisk centered legislation.

Thompson responded forcefully saying, “We don’t need cheap showmanship from Mr. de Blasio to fix stop and frisk abuse, we need leadership, and that’s what New Yorkers will get from me.”

The city’s black voters though will have to decide if stop-and-frisk abuse is enough of an issue to vote for or against a candidate in order to elect the next mayor.  The policy has inspired silent protests and in the wake of the George Zimmerman verdict a new candid conversation about racial bias and by extension racial profiling.  De Blasio has a multicultural family, and his wife has been front and center in his campaign from the beginning in the hopes that voters will consider de Blasio over Thompson the only viable African-American candidate in the race.  If he is successful, it might even put to bed the incorrect notion that is often repeated during the Obama era, that black voters support candidates because they are black.

De Blasio’s policy positions certainly make him the most attractive candidate in the race, if racial profiling and curbing stop-and-frisk abuses is one of the most important issues in voters minds this September.Black voters in New York may have Sanford, Florida on their minds this Fall, selecting a candidate whose policies support the community, beyond simple symbolism or image.

Follow Zerlina Maxwell on Twitter at @ZerlinaMaxwell.