David Dinkins, New York City’s first black mayor and a pioneer in the civil rights movement, addressed a disappointingly small crowd at a Yale Political Union meeting last night.
Around 50 students sat in Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona Hall room 114, which seats almost 500, to hear Dinkins argue against racial profiling in a debate titled, “Resolved: The end does not justify the means in the criminal justice system.”
“It’s not a question that there is such a thing as racial profiling,” Dinkins said. “It does exist.”
Dinkins, who was mayor of New York City from 1989 to 1993, criticized current mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s zero-tolerance approach to crime fighting, in which police crack down on smaller crimes in hopes of deterring larger ones.
Matt Louchheim ’04, a member of the YPU’s Independent Party, pointed out to Dinkins that crime has dropped in the city since Dinkins’ term.
“I accept your stats, but what’s your point?” asked Dinkins, interrupting Louchheim.
Dinkins said this decrease is rooted in factors other than Giuliani’s zero-tolerance policy, such as a nationwide drop in crime.
Even desirable results like decreased crime rates are not justifiable if they are not achieved by ethical means, Dinkins said.
“Drugs and guns, that’s what [the New York Police Department] is looking for,” he said.
And Dinkins said that if the New York Police Department stops 10 people illegally and finds contraband on only one, the department will feel justified in violating the rights of the other nine. Dinkins attacked the New York Police Department’s attitude several times in his speech.
“You cannot use bad means for good ends any more than you can build a good house out of bad material,” he said.
After calling the New York Police Department “one of the finest in the world,” Dinkins said that the good cops do not make up for the ones who are “rude, crude, corrupt and criminal.”
Jowei Chen ’04, a member of the Conservative Party, argued Dinkins should also be opposed to any legislation that distinguishes people based on gender or ethnicity, like state and federal hate crime laws and violence against women acts.
Dinkins said he is not opposed to affirmative action, and then said to Chen, “I fail to see the relevance of your comment.”
Dinkins rushed off after only an hour. He said he needed to catch a train back to New York.
Jonathan Romanyshyn ’04, chief whip for the Tory Party, said the Party of the Right was absent from the event, likely part of a silent protest against the liberal-leaning speaker.
Romanyshyn also said the YPU’s three events this week, compared to the usual one, probably affected the turnout. Party of the Right members were not available for comment.
Romanyshyn also that that many people are turned off by the YPU name, though the group used to be the largest organization on campus.
“It could be political apathy,” he said.
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