Insight. Antics.

Upper Messed Side.

In NYC, Television on August 19, 2013 at 1:34 pm

Someone sent me this story this yesterday and WOW.

A few nights ago, on the aptly-named The Call on NY1, the focus was on “Democratic mayoral candidate (and newly-minted front-runner) Bill De Blasio” and host John Schiumo spoke with “Joan, from the Upper West Side.” When asked if she supports him, she lets us in on her worldview:

JOAN: No, I was [in support of de Blasio] at first because of this stop-and-frisk—which I’m totally against—but when I saw him on the street with his entourage, I had gone up to him and introduced myself and told him how active I was in liberal politics, and I said to him, ‘You’re not going to end stop-and-frisk in Manhattan, right? Just in Staten Island, Brooklyn, and Queens (and I’m still up in the air about The Bronx). And he said ‘Why should I not have it in Manhattan?’ And I said, ‘Well, you can’t expect us to live by the same rules we dictate to other people for heaven’s sake! Just because people like me are against stop-and-frisk in places like Brooklyn and Queens and Staten Island doesn’t mean we don’t want it to continue in Manhattan! I mean: Manhattan is special. Let’s put it this way. We are New York! Brooklyn and Queens and Staten Island, I… I don’t even like talking about those kinds of places!

JOHN SCHIUMO: I’m assuming you were sarcastic an—

JOAN: No! No! I’m being sincere!

JOHN SCHIUMO: Oh, you—[laughs in disbelief] you were being sincere?

JOAN: I don’t know why that’s funny!

JOHN SCHIUMO: Why is that funny? That’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard in eight years of this program.

JOAN: Well, in all due respect, think about it this way: Affordable housing—I mean, New Yorkers accept in the boroughs, but you don’t want those people living around you! Of course, I would be the first to say anyone in Brooklyn and Queens and Staten Island would be prejudiced for that, but I mean, ugh, I’m not a hypocrite!

As context, stop-and-frisk is a fairly self explanatory policy the NYPD has engaged in for years that has disproportionately been applied to people of color, and is controversial for that reason.

Props to Complex for giving this batshit perspective the wider exposure to be exposed. All rational thought renders this woman’s views pure guano.

Joan, who so perfectly fits the stereotype of a woman who is currently having brunch at Nice Matin as we speak, is arguing for separate but equal… obliviously! She literally says she is not a hypocrite while engaging in the act of hypocrisy!

Quick, Joan! Finish your egg white frittata! St. John and Lilly Pulitzer are waging a price war at Sak’s! Hail a cab!

I love the moment when you think she is basically Colbert-ing you, and Schiumo chuckles softly, thinking it’s so overt, she must be putting us on.

Not so much the haughty tone, the at-arms length way she wants to live, yet still “stand” for something.

Screenshot from The Call on 8/14/13 - NY1

She is lucky (and we are the opposite) that this wasn’t an on-the-street interview where we could see her face. This way, she can ensconce her unconscious racism and whisk past her Latino doorman into her Classic Six on 74th and Amsterdam without facing the disingenuous smile that masks a scowl.

Schiumo likely did the responsible thing by ending the call politely and quickly after that, before she could go on and have a forum to hurl invective, but a part of me wants to hear more of her views, and her thought process, and then refute it with the power of Thor’s hammer, cheese, and love, all rolled into one. (Romantic gouda mallet. Yum.)

Right up front she erodes her credibility with the pinnacle of hypocrisy revealed in the carelessly stupid superlative way that people often speak: “I’m totally against—but.”

Total means wholly and entirely, completely. Saying “I’m all for something, but” is dumber than Duck Dynasty. “I was for de Blasio until I heard one of the key components of his platform!”

“I’m against this, except in four out of five cases!” (or in this case places.)

As my friend said, it’s like she’s saying, “Geez, this is Manhattan, not America!”

Christina Hendricks as Joan Harris in Mad Men promotional photo for Season 5 - Frank Ockenfels 3 / AMC

Maybe Joan from the Upper West Side is an aging Joan from Mad Men, but the latter shows much more compassion and intelligence than this woman.

I started digging deeper into her comments to unearth some further insights, not about her but about New York and the land mine-laden area of race, which I hope I don’t maim myself upon.

Do I understand how she gets to her conclusions? I think so, but that doesn’t mean I agree with them.

Joan essentially lays bear the fear of every professed tolerant liberal.

I’d wager she is saying what a not inconsequential tranche of people are probably thinking.

I’m not sure if I should give her credit for having the bravery to share her politically incorrect opinions or be offended for her having no shame in doing so and tarnishing “the rest of us” by demographic association in the process.

The Times’ poll this weekend says approval for stop-and-frisk is split right down the middle. Awkwardly, more than twice as many Jews (68%) than blacks (32%) approve of it. Unexpectedly, the people who approve of it most are by far Queens residents (at 65%, in the most ethnically diverse borough), and not Manhattan residents (coming in lowest at 41%) as you might surmise.

For one, as a purely practical amoral matter, wouldn’t the efficacy of stop-and-frisk be eroded if it were only used in one borough anyway? The population of Manhattan basically doubles during a work day with all the surrounding commutes. People in our city tend to traverse boroughs with frequency, so the lack of a stop of a supposed miscreant in the Bronx could hypothetically effect you when he gets to his destination for the day in Columbus Circle.

Also, has Joan ever been to Park Slope? It’s organic, free-range cash-moneyed white-itude sometimes makes vanilla faces on West End Avenue look like also-rans.

That debate is in the zeitgeist, of course. Let me settle it: Brooklyn is cool and so is Manhattan. Some people in both places are also drenched in generically labeled suckiness and lame-nosity.

A friend of mine from here went to grad school in Philadelphia.  She once described Philly as “Brooklyn without Manhattan,” not flatteringly.

Would Brooklyn et al. be nothing without Manhattan? (Would Pippen have been nothing without Jordan?) Sure, it would probably be less remarked upon, but that’s not the point; they exist and have for quite some time.

The outer boroughs have a symbiotic relationship to Manhattan, but that’s also the case with Westchester, Northern New Jersey, Long Island, and Connecticut. Basically everyone within a two-hour radius of Manhattan.

It’s an island. “You’re either in or you’re out, right now.” Okay, not quite; most subways and trains are really good and aside from overly hair gelled bridge-and-tunnel riff raff, that’s cool with me.

Also, Joan’s incorrect. While the outer boroughs of NYC have it, there is also public housing in Manhattan, least of which is not nine blocks away in my neighborhood on the Upper East Side. (There are really two Upper East Sides, the West of Lexington and East of Lexington Avenues. The west of Lex is the over-the-top version you probably know. I’m in the more grounded east.)

Rubin "Hurricane" Carter in jail

I will confess a slight ambivalence about stop-and-frisk policy because it appears to have achieved its goal. Figures show crime is down and there is a correlation between stop-and-frisk and that fact. But in so doing, it sowed seeds of suspicion and division. It just doesn’t feel right.

Should a subset of people who commit crime at a higher rate due to the very reason that history discounted them be publicly penalized and humiliated for that very reason?

An hour after I saw Joan on The Call, a relevant movie was on TV. Its namesake, The Hurricane, was framed for a murder in 1966 because he was black, and it was easy. He was exonerated in 1985.

You can get a flavor for the lopsided incarceration rates for African Americans and Hispanics as compared to whites herehere, and here. It’s not genetic. It’s an endemic societal problem based on problematic historical treatment trying to be fixed gradually.

It’s sad that two weeks ago on The Daily Show, Samantha Bee and Jessica Williams’ focus groups with a handful of people from the opposite race showed such mixed progress on eliminating racism. The white cohort thought we were like 80% there, while the black one averaged something like 4%.

I’d like to think we have come further than that, of course.

Obviously, a tragedy like Trayvon Martin makes us feel like we haven’t, and stop-and-frisk isn’t super helpful on the “Hey, let’s all hang out” front, but there is plenty of that going on.

And unfortunately, even people who truly eschew racism are guilty of it sometimes.

For our part, I remember that in college, my fraternity, which was somewhat diverse, gave it our best. When a black guy came to our house for rush, we would all accost him, gush like he were some hot freshman girl, practically drooling over getting him to join. Genuinely. (Yes, what I’m trying to say is that I’m one of the good ones.)

Part of me wants to take Joan on a tour of nice blocks in Astoria and Williamsburg and Harlem. The rest of me knows she would drive me insane in 5 minutes. Hey, I wonder if she has a daughter?

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