The painting is of a dramatic moment in a typical “Stop and Frisk” operation, when a young man of color is force to raise his hands above his head and be subjected to a search, merely for being present on a public street.
This celebration commemorates the 50th anniversary of the march on Washington, led by Dr. Martin Luther King to oppose laws in southern states, that did not allow blacks equal opportunity to participate in a myriad of activities of daily community life. The result was a climate of fear to appear and act as a free person in public places. The civil rights marches and sit-ins led by Dr. King and others inspired the world to address and correct these laws. In the process, protesters overcame unspeakable police and civilian brutality.
Fifty years later we are blessed with increased opportunities, created by the success of Dr. King and his colleagues. But another equally important legacy of Dr. King and those brave and brilliant advocates is to inspire us to be constantly aware that racial discrimination and oppression can occur anywhere in society. The discrimination is insidious, and takes place in the north as well as the south. It is constantly reinvented, and takes many forms. Nowadays racial oppression is not centered in southern schools, water fountains, restaurants and buses. There are no signs posted, saying: “No people of color allowed to walk here.”
What would Dr. King would say about “Stop and Frisk?” Dr. King’s speeches and writings continue to sharpen our awareness of the underlying racism of these new injustices. Would he not speak out about this new form of police oppression, that harasses and humiliates thousands of black and Hispanic men who are simply walking outside on the street?