To the Editor:
I am writing regarding the January 12 incident which culminated in hundreds of emails, as well as a public forum hosted by Public Safety and RIRA.
In my view, this was never about a woman getting attacked. And it was never about weed.
I’ve heard this story before. I know the story about a white woman feeling unsafe, and the mob that follows. Strange fruit hanging from a poppy tree. This Emmett Till story. Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland story. I know every word to this song. I know I’m a soul whose intentions are good. We are not dangerous, or illegal, or terrorists, or “those people.” Why do you need us to be?
I attended the public forum. This was not a shrill overreaction by ridiculous helicopter moms; they are serious. We know increased policing does not decrease substance abuse. We’ve known this since President Reagan. We’ve known it since we began calling white lives zombied by heroin and prescription drugs a “public health crisis” instead of incarcerating them like we did when crack decimated black communities. Do you think these parents calling for a war on drugs need sensitivity training, or do you see that lines are being drawn?
For the police, this was never about weed or loyalty to white fear. They are receiving an unanticipated, but welcome, windfall of support for a repressive program of surveillance and aggressive policing that seems to be already underway.
Public Safety has already begun installing NYPD counterterrorism video cameras with facial recognition software. Why was McManus, an NYPD sergeant running multiple precincts with “hundreds of cops beneath him,” appointed as Chief three years ago, and former NYPD Kevin Brown made deputy? Who is paying for all this? Who has access to the data for these counterterrorism cameras? Why do they believe this level of policing is necessary in such a small neighborhood?
What about you, neighbor? Are you a spectator to this current political moment or an agent of change? Are you a good person? Is “good” an adjective to describe a side you picked during a childhood bedtime story? Does it lie there untainted and unquestioned? Or is it a verb, decisions you must make as winter is coming – is it a call to action?
Did you mourn the 800 patients evicted from Goldwater Hospital, evicted off an Island named after our only President in a wheelchair? Or did you watch as this group of Islanders who preceded you got swept away; as the broken pieces of someone else’s problem? I know I didn’t. Who are we becoming as a community when Cornell-Technion is built on land lost by the most vulnerable among us, with nothing more than questions about how we will most benefit?
Do you know there is a Japanese parent network or do you assume that your affiliations are universal and the only ones that matter? Is the true Roosevelt Island white, middle class, married, and straight while the rest of us are hyphenated inconveniences? Are we a diversity prop, better to be seen and not heard?
When you heard about the lead at PS/IS 217, was your first instinct to investigate and hold them accountable, or was it to direct everyone to official statements? Do our community organizations mandate professional development for the faculty on race and racism? Did you care about the kids languishing in the Youth Center, in a sub-standard space with little to no supervision, before you realized how much it could hold for your own? Do you think critically about your core beliefs?
Is your hand outstretched to your neighbor? Or does it hold a brick to build a wall and Make Roosevelt Island Safe Again?
As a longtime resident, I believe that our strength as a community is in one another. We hold the key to keeping the Island safe. We must educate one another on our similarities and differences and what they mean, and hold each other to the promise of Roosevelt Island.
Khadijah Julia Abdurahman