On Monday a federal judge struck down as unconstitutional New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk program, a decision that earned an outraged response from Mayor Michael Bloomberg and praise from civil libertarians and minority advocates.
As John Oliver explained Tuesday night on “The Daily Show,” the policy, which allowed the city’s police to proactively stop and search residents and overwhelmingly targeted black and Latino residents, has long been highly contentious.
“For years, opinion in New York has been divided on stop-and-frisk, with black and Latino residents of this city saying it’s an invasion of their liberty,” he said, “and white residents saying, ‘I think I heard a thing about that on NPR. Is that still happening?’”
While Oliver argued the policy was discriminatory and saw some irony in Bloomberg’s complaints about the allegedly biased ruling, he was surprised to learn that correspondent Jessica Williams was on the mayor’s side – sort of.
“If anything, stop-and-frisk doesn’t go far enough,” asserted Williams, who claimed to be reporting from “one of New York’s most crime-ridden neighborhoods.”
No, she wasn’t in East New York or Hunts Point, but rather Wall Street – or, as she called it, “The White Bronx" or "Business Harlem.”
“Frankly, John, I don’t feel safe here. And I would like to see the police do their freaking jobs and start stopping people down here,” she said angrily.
Oliver countered that Williams was unfairly calling for "the arbitrary harassment of anyone on Wall Street.”
But she clarified she was only targeting people likely to be white-collar criminals: “You know, walking around in tailored suits, slicked-back hair, always need sunscreen, if you know what I’m saying.”
“If you don’t want to be associated with white-collar crime, maybe you shouldn’t dress that way,” she added. “It’s OK, I can say that. Some of my best friends are white men in suits.”
As a white man in a suit, Oliver objected to the negative stereotyping of his demographic, but Williams stuck to her assertion that “white-collar crime is disproportionately committed by people who fit a certain profile.”
“If you are, say, a white, Upper East Side billionaire with ties to the financial community like Michael Bloomberg, you just gotta accept getting roughed up by the police every once in a while,” Williams concluded.
The piece, in its reversal of the rhetoric often applied in conversations about crime and minorities, called to mind a recent satirical segment on MSNBC's "All In with Chris Hayes."
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