Martin Luther King Jr: “The richer we have become materially, the poorer we become morally and spiritually. We have learned to fly in the air like birds and swim in the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers.”
In Part I, I introduced Vision Zero Apartheid, which is Vision Zero with policing in a racist society that results in the segregation of public safety. In the previous essay, I focused on the impact of white fear in echo chambers on immigrant delivery workers and their e-bikes. In Part II below, I write about the policing of immigrant delivery workers and e-bikes.
Police Officers on Every Corner
At one point in our combative conversation that I wrote about in Part I, Howard Yaruss (former Transportation Committee co-chair of Community Board 7 in the Upper West Side) suggested that he wanted police officers on every corner because of delivery workers.
I was flabbergasted at this suggestion. Aside from the blatant racism in wanting NYC to waste staggering resources to place police on every corner to target delivery workers and their e-bikes, NYC’s own collision and injury/fatality data shows no evidence of danger by delivery worker use of e-bikes. Simply put, e-bike riders in NYC have struck and killed zero people.
During a meeting with NYPD that included Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan in September, we at the Biking Public Project asked NYPD for data on how many people are killed and/or injured by e-bike riders. An NYPD official first responded by citing an instance in 2016 where a driver killed a delivery e-bike rider, which is consistent with the NYPD’s tendency to victim-blame dead pedestrians or cyclists. Another police official then replied that e-bike-caused injuries are lumped in with cyclist-caused injuries in the stats. In NYC, cyclist-caused injuries comprise only a tiny fraction of all traffic-related injuries – in 2016 for example, cyclists caused only about half of one percent (0.5% or 311 of 60,399) of all traffic injuries. Thus e-bike riders as a fraction of this number are simply not causing a high rate of injuries.
As corroboration, reporter Christopher Robbins tweeted this safety data from a recent Community Board 7 Transportation meeting that further demonstrates the absurdity of the e-bikes crusade as a public safety measure:
Considering the widespread use of e-bikes by delivery workers in the Upper West Side and the countless trips and miles from delivery work, this safety data suggests that delivery e-bikers are incredibly safe contrary to white fears.
Unable to cite any public safety data, De Blasio pointed to public complaints from highly privileged residents such as Matthew Shefler to justify his e-bikes crackdown in the name of Vision Zero. Josmar Trujillo absolutely nails it when he writes, “Dear White People: Your E-Bike Complaints Ruin Lives.” The logic of white supremacy doesn’t actually need proof, it just needs white fear. It is like how the Trump administration is desperately trying to manufacture proof of immigrant criminality in order to justify ICE raids or when Trump just blatantly lies about voter fraud with racist dog whistles.
These pictures show the NYPD proudly displaying the captured e-bikes as if they are trophies from a safari.
Recently, Jessame Hannus tweeted this image of a police checkpoint for e-bikes in Manhattan:
I count six NYPD officers at this e-bike checkpoint. Since immigrants are the ones to primarily use e-bikes as seen in our survey data of delivery workers (below), this is effectively a police checkpoint for immigrants, particularly Chinese ones, in a supposed Sanctuary City.
Why are e-bikes so popular with Chinese immigrants? Partly, e-bikes are popular in China and many of the e-bike shops are Chinese-owned. But significantly, age is a major factor in e-bike use (graphs below).
The median age of Chinese-language workers who mostly use e-bikes is nearly two decades more than the median age of English-language workers who primarily use regular bikes. Likewise, the median age of delivery e-bikers is over a decade more than delivery bicyclists. This suggests that e-bike use is an important physical aid for many older workers who would otherwise likely struggle to keep pace with younger delivery cyclists. Thus the e-bikes crackdown is also ageist.
Beyond punishment, this police checkpoint for e-bikes is also spectacle – a show of force and power to loudly portray the immigrant workers as illegal and dangerous to the broader public.
Of course, delivery e-bike riders are human and make mistakes just like everyone. But how do we explain this shock-and-awe spectacle of police force against low-wage immigrant workers?
Cat & Mouse Game of E-Bikes
NYC’s policy and enforcement of e-bikes has been wildly muddled and inconsistent. NYC’s e-bike ordinance in 2004 was passed several years before the current e-bikes started appearing and so the NYPD treated any e-bike as illegal regardless if it was a pedal-assist or throttle e-bike. In recent years, the NYPD has been largely ignoring pedal-assist e-bikes while targeting throttle e-bikes. So why the change? On one hand, the ambiguous way the NYC e-bikes ordinance is written, pedal-assist e-bikes could be interpreted as legal but not clearly so. In contrast, throttle e-bikes are clearly criminalized.
But also significantly, there is a racial and class divide in e-bikes used in NYC as increasing numbers of affluent older whites are riding expensive pedal-assist-only e-bikes while immigrant delivery workers commonly use more affordable Arrow e-bikes, which are combination e-bikes that have both throttle and pedal-assist functions. The throttle function is the excuse that Mayor De Blasio and others use to claim that the delivery e-bikes are inherently dangerous. In contrast, De Blasio has recently stated multiple times that pedal-assist e-bikes are “allowable,” which effectively exempts privileged white riders from e-bikes policing. Adding to the confusion, NYC officials have said the opposite including the Mayor’s own office in recent news stories:
- The Outline: the mayor’s office clarified by email that pedal-assist bikes “are categorized as ‘motorized scooters,’ making them illegal to operate on City streets.”
- NY Times: Officials from the New York City Department of Transportation insisted in emails this month that all bicycles with any sort of electrical assistance are illegal, which would make them subject to confiscation and fines of up to $500.
This incoherence of the City’s policy on e-bikes maintains a cloud of confusion. But with Vision Zero Apartheid, this kind of incoherence is exactly the point. Incoherence carves space for discretionary and racist policing that criminalizes some, but not others.
This incoherence results in differential enforcement outcomes. In one example, the e-bike ordinance also includes a clause that fines businesses $1000 for each e-bike that they try to sell. City officials come into an e-bike business, count the number of e-bikes and issue massive fines. Jing, Xiaodeng, and I spoke with Hao Jian Tou Bicycle, a Chinese-owned e-bike shop in Chinatown. In 2016, the Department of Consumer Affairs visited this shop and issued them $6000 in fines, $1000 for each of the six e-bikes in the shop. Lacking options, the shop paid the huge fine instead of going out of business.
In contrast, The Outline story relates how Chris Nolte of Propel Electric Bikes used political connections to waive the $25,000 in fines his shop received for the same exact offense of trying to sell e-bikes:
But in 2015, he received a $25,000 fine for trying to sell pedal-assist bikes. As Nolte tells it, an inspector for the Department of Consumer Affairs came into his shop and informed Nolte he was going to fine him $1,000 per bike. Nolte says the inspector wasn’t informed of the local or state law and didn’t know the difference — legal or otherwise — between pedal-assist or throttle. “Apparently,” Nolte said, “his stance was if it has a motor on it, I’m writing a ticket for it.” Nolte did not fight the ticket on the merits because he couldn’t risk losing, he told me. Instead, he leaned on his credibility as a veteran, calling roughly a dozen elected officials and city offices, and ultimately got the fine dismissed on what he calls “a technicality” through the city’s Department of Veterans Services.
The point is not that Nolte’s e-bike shop should have paid the fines. I went by Propel’s shop a few months ago and Propel employees said that these e-bikes fines would have put them out of business and that would be a cruel injustice as well. Rather, the point is that the incoherent legality of e-bikes makes it possible for Nolte to use privilege to get the fines dismissed while Hao Jian Tou Bicycle cannot.
Incoherence also makes it possible so that “none of [Nolte’s] customers have ever reported getting a ticket for riding a pedal-assist e-bike.” Propel primarily sells high-end electric bikes that usually cost between $3000-$7000 and attracts a wealthy clientele.
The Chinese delivery workers are not so fortunate. Racial and nativity disparities show up in our survey data of delivery workers (below). 70% of Chinese delivery workers reported getting e-bike fines for $500 (sometimes $1000).
If the e-bike is also confiscated, workers estimate that they end up losing $1000 between paying the $500 fine and the lost wages from time spent getting the e-bike back from the police if they are not too scared. Sometimes the worker has to make a costly decision whether to go through this trouble and risk or just buy a new e-bike for $1400-$2000.
After the worker retrieves their e-bike back, the police can stop them again and again issue a fine and confiscate the e-bike. This e-bike policing loop is what many Chinese workers call a cruel cat and mouse game the city is playing with them. Because it is legal to own an e-bike, NYC can’t simply just confiscate e-bikes forever, NYC has to give the e-bikes back if the worker pays the fine. Some workers also say that the NYPD occasionally “can’t find” their e-bike even though they paid the fine. As mentioned in a previous essay, after a Chinese worker paid the $500 fine, the NYPD cruelly sent him on a futile and time-consuming search for his confiscated e-bike at twelve different remote storage locations before he finally gave up and bought a new e-bike.
As the e-bike crackdown escalates, many immigrant workers are losing their livelihoods. In December, Jing and I met with 40-50 Chinese workers at midnight in Chinatown as that was the best time when many workers could meet after their work shifts. One worker there told us that he had gotten three e-bike tickets in the last month at $500 apiece for $1500 total in fines when he only makes about $2000 a month. He said bitterly that he might as well just not worked. So Jing asked the room how many of them had recently either stopped working or lost their jobs because of the punitive e-bikes policing. In a room of 40-50 Chinese delivery workers, more than half of them raised their hands.
In response to reporters who asked about older delivery workers who need e-bikes, De Blasio suggested that workers use cars, regular bikes or walk, or just find other jobs. The amount of callous privilege in these suggestions is staggering and made all the more cruel by Mayor De Blasio and his spokespeople constantly repeating the fantasy that the e-bikes crackdown is about shifting enforcement onto the restaurants.
For many of the immigrant workers, what they want is some sort of reasonable path to legality for their e-bikes. It’s as if the conflicts over e-bikes themselves in NYC are embodying the national level conflicts over undocumented immigrants. In addition, any police encounter can be terrifying for immigrant workers in this national immigration climate. This is a completely rational fear considering that the NYPD Union Head stated that many NYPD officers want to help ICE in deportations, NYPD has been alerting ICE anyway, and ICE arrests or attempts at arrests at NY courthouses are up 900%. Yet in a Sanctuary City, De Blasio is exposing immigrant workers to more policing.
So how do we explain this seemingly nonsensical e-bikes crackdown?
Policing as Racial & Immigrant Control
According to Michelle Alexander, our hyper-emphasis on policing as a solution to societal conflicts is rooted within white supremacy that works to maintain racial hierarchies:
A new race-neutral language was developed for appealing to old racist sentiments, a language ‘accompanied by a political movement that succeeded in putting the vast majority of blacks back in their place. Proponents of racial hierarchy found they could install a new racial caste system without violating the law or the new limits of acceptable political discourse, by demanding’“law and order” rather than “segregation forever.”
Legality is a matter of power, not justice. Slavery was legal. Jim Crow laws were legal. Mixed race marriages were illegal. It was not legal for women to vote. It was legal for children to work in sweatshops. It is now illegal in many cities to feed the homeless in public. Apparently Footloose was based on the true story of NYC as it was illegal to dance in nearly all establishments in NYC until just two months ago. It was legal for the American government to imprison all American citizens of Japanese descent not because they had done anything wrong, but because white supremacy deemed them as potentially dangerous. It was illegal in North Carolina for transgender people to use a bathroom of their gender identity because people feared a non-existent danger. Trump banned immigration from several Muslim countries. In NYC, it is legal to own an e-bike, but it is illegal to ride one.
NYC’s crackdown on e-bikes stands in sharp contrast to the rapid adoption of e-bikes in China, Europe, and throughout the majority of U.S. states. San Francisco, Washington DC, Chicago and other cities are currently experimenting with e-bike share programs. The difference is that the early adopters of e-bikes in NYC have been immigrant delivery workers while early adopters of e-bikes in other states have been more privileged riders.
Likewise, enforcement of the law is subject to power inequalities. When Daniel Pantaleo killed Eric Garner, he did so with an illegal chokehold. Yet Pantaleo was not even indicted. Despite widespread financial fraud in the 2008 housing market meltdown, no one went to jail. In NYC, the police arrest blacks at 4-5x times the rate of whites for marijuana possession even though blacks and whites use marijuana at the same rate. Racial disparities in policing of bicycling and walking while black, brown, and/or immigrant has been documented in numerous places. In a study by Charles Brown and James Sinclair, racial profiling by the police is an substantial barrier to cycling for Blacks and Latinos in New Jersey.
In 2016, NYPD Officer Adhyl Polanco told NBC New York:
The problem is, when you go hunting, when you put any type of numbers on a police officer to perform, we are going to go for the most vulnerable. Of course, we’re going to go for the LGBT community, we’re going to the black community, we’re going to those that have no vote, that have no power.
In addition to immigrant delivery workers being highly vulnerable to this kind of policing, they are even more visible too because of the NYC ordinance that requires working cyclists to wear bright reflective vests.
Immigration laws are designed, not to physically expel undocumented residents, but to assign them a subordinate and marginalized status. In this regard, the negative effects of “illegality” stem not only from physical expulsion but from enduring daily life as an undocumented resident.
Essentially, e-bikes have not been legalized because they have become an NYPD tool of crimmigration.
The Biking Public Project helped bring delivery workers to Mayoral town halls in Flushing and Sunset Park to directly ask De Blasio to work with delivery workers on e-bikes. The Mayor insisted that legalizing e-bikes is a state matter (true), that the law is the law and he’s just enforcing the law, and that “any penalties will be directed at the business owners” (untrue). While NY State has never legalized e-bikes, there are also no NY State laws that specifically criminalize e-bike use. Simply put, immigrant workers are punished for e-bike use under the auspices of NYC’s ordinance and thus the City has the power to repeal the e-bikes ordinance or at least de-prioritize e-bikes policing. They could also throw political support for reasonable e-bikes legalization at the state level. Instead, the NYPD’s legislative staff helped kill a state level e-bike legalization bill last year. At the Mayor’s e-bike press conference, one of the speakers, State Senator Liz Krueger who represents the Upper East Side and Midtown East, shared a warning:
I want to highlight though that where I work in Albany, there’s a movement to change the state law to take away our right of home rule to make the right decisions for our population. And there are bills to try to open up and legalize e-bikes. So I’m just saying that the fight is not just here, it’s in Albany.
By pretending to have no influence on e-bikes legalization and working hard to keep e-bikes illegal, NYC officials are keeping immigrant workers with e-bikes in a state of unnecessary and punitive illegality. This perpetual state of illegality for e-bike use mirrors how other cities and states criminalize undocumented immigrants in mobility practices as Amada Armenta writes:
It is not an accident that excluding unauthorized immigrants from driver’s licenses and IDs makes immigrants more arrestable but not less employable. Punishing “illegality” by socially and symbolically excluding unauthorized immigrants from membership is perfectly compatible with integrating undocumented workers in low-wage labor markets…
Keeping immigrants as outsiders while they remain inside the boundaries of the state serves a productive function in that it helps maintain a compliant and exploitable workforce.
E-bikes as crimmigration is a mechanism of racial and immigrant control. By failing to legalize e-bikes at the state level and by refusing to de-criminalize e-bike use at the city level, New York is choosing to keep immigrant delivery e-bikers in a state of illegality. This makes it easier for NYC to exploit, steal from, and criminalize immigrant delivery workers.
Reining Them In
But again why are so many rich white people so afraid that they have to exert so much power to punish immigrant workers who are bringing them food?
Unpacking and decoding this example headline NY Post article (right), it essentially means “Rich white people in their neighborhood take on out-of-control immigrant working men who bring rich white people their food and stuff.” Also, the picture suggests that being “out-of-control” is simply being a working brown bicyclist relatively near white people.
First, note that there is a gaping power inequality between rich white people taking on immigrant workers – not exactly a fair fight. Second, the use of “out-of-control” mirrors the constant depiction of delivery workers as “reckless” and “dangerous.” But it also suggests that these immigrant workers are out of the control of rich white people and that this absolutely terrifies rich white people.
In our media analysis, we found this theme of “out-of-control” and “dangerous” delivery workers littered throughout English-language news stories about delivery workers usually skewed by the exclusion of delivery worker voices in the stories.
Rich white people employ many low-wage workers of color as doormen, security, domestic workers and many other employees. These workers of color are under tight social control by their rich white employers. If these workers disobey their employers, they will lose their jobs.
So in contrast, how are immigrant delivery workers out of the control of rich white people? I think one example that illuminates the perceived lack of control can be seen in this part of Mayor De Blasio’s e-bike press conference:
We can’t have a situation where people feel unsafe crossing a street or even walking down a sidewalk. We can’t have a situation where someone’s suddenly facing an electronic bicycle coming the wrong way. It’s just too dangerous.
The terror of rich white people comes from a brief reversal of racial power and hierarchy in the street. For a fleeting moment when immigrant delivery workers are riding e-bikes near rich white people, the person with the most power and control is not the rich white person, it’s the poor immigrant delivery worker. It’s not that the immigrant delivery workers actually hit and injure rich white people at alarming rates, but it’s the fact that immigrants could inflict harm for that split second that symbolizes a shocking reversal of power and racial hierarchy that is absolutely unacceptable under a system of white supremacy. That’s what potentially dangerous and scary.
As a reaction to this intolerable loss of control, rich white people are demanding an immediate and total policing crackdown on immigrant workers who use e-bikes in order to “rein them in” as Howard Yaruss put it to me.
In another example, an Upper West Side resident tweeted (below) about feeling terrified by a group of “bicycle thugs” popping wheelies down the street.
To me, if I see something like this on the street, I’m amused and I stop to watch the spectacle. It’s not harming anyone. But for this privileged Upper West Sider? Fear, fear, fear.
You might ask, well, why aren’t rich white people then generally more terrified by drivers in cars that actually kill and maim a lot of people? Without getting into a long history lesson about cars, highways, suburbs, and segregation, car culture developed so that it became synonymous with power, status, and the American dream – or in short, cars became equated with whiteness (and toxic masculinity). Symbolically, cars as whiteness do not threaten the racial hierarchy of white supremacy. I strongly suspect that should a delivery e-bike rider ever cause a pedestrian death, the city will rain fire and fury. No doubt, any such death would a deep tragedy. But we also know that some lives are treated to matter a lot more than others in this country. The truth is that under Vision Zero Apartheid, public safety means that immigrant delivery worker lives are disposable while white lives are infinitely precious.
Anti-e-bikes folks routinely claim that they fear for the safety of women, children, and the elderly – for example: De Blasio’s press conference and Matthew Shefler’s WNYC appearance. White supremacy regularly uses racist dog whistles by invoking panic about “predatory” men of color attacking white women to justify racial violence against men of color. The lynching of Emmitt Till. Trump describing Mexicans as “rapists.” Allan Ripp, yet another Upper West Side resident, writes in the Observer about fearing delivery workers and to complain about inadequate policing: “good luck getting [the police] to ticket or even warn a cyclist just because he happens to ride around like a Mongol warrior.” Mongol warrior, wow. This racist dog whistle evokes an Eurocentric orientalist image of Asian barbarians raping and pillaging European civilization. White supremacy has commonly depicted Asian men as predatory when it was historically convenient:
A couple of years ago, I wrote about a delivery cyclist “forum” sponsored by NYC Council Member Ben Kallos who represents the Upper East Side. Kallos said something that I didn’t write about back then because I didn’t quite fully understand it. Kallos told the delivery workers that it was important for them to wear their helmets and reflective vests according to the commercial cycling law so that “we can tell who’s a good delivery cyclist and who’s a bad one.” That moment stuck in my head and made me wonder: How does wearing a helmet and vest automatically make someone a “good” delivery worker? But through the lens of racial control, immigrant delivery workers with bright reflective vests are visibly signalling to rich white people that they as “scary” immigrants of color are under “control.” It’s as if delivery workers become tagged like wildlife in scientific studies for easy identification, tracking, and control.
Becoming more visible can expose the immigrant workers to more street hostility. Emily Reid-Musson found in her study of migrant farm workers dependent on bikes in rural Ontario that:
Migrants face racial aggression from drivers. They have objects thrown at them from drivers (such as garbage, eggs, and water balloons), and they are targets of overtly aggressive driving and verbal taunts. Those who deliver bike safety projects for migrants do not acknowledge or address the prevalence of aggression against migrants. The harassment that migrants face from drivers suggests that being physically visible to drivers – by wearing a reflective vest, for example – can make migrant bicyclists less safe.
Likewise, delivery workers face considerable hostility in NYC streets. Xian, a Chinese delivery worker, described being called “chink” and spat on by random people in the street. Manuel, a Latino delivery worker, was waiting at a stoplight in northern Manhattan when he was suddenly attacked and beaten up by a bunch of random men. He had no idea who these men were and they didn’t steal anything. They just kicked the crap out of him. The worst part according to Manuel was that “there were bystanders just watching and they didn’t do anything.”
Jackie, a white female food delivery cyclist, told me that she intentionally tries not look like a delivery worker because she gets treated worse by drivers if she does. She doesn’t wear a reflective vest and she uses a backpack that doesn’t look like a delivery bag. Being white and female, she can easily pass as not a delivery worker in the eyes of the police and public. Thus the requirement of bright yellow reflective vests for delivery cyclists are a symbolic stigma of societal crimmigration that parades itself as fake concern for the delivery workers’ safety.
Racial control through policing is premised upon privileged logic that “bad” people will “rationally” behave better when we ticket and police them until they behave. This is literally the same logic used by ultra-conservative Kris Kobach’s self-deportation policies. Likewise, Mayor De Blasio said at the e-bikes press conference:
Anybody operating an e-bike is in violation of the law. Period. And this again is focusing our enforcement. It is consistent with Vision Zero. It is consistent with quality of life policing. It’s consistent with the fact that we have more police time and energy to put into matters like this because there’s less violent crime.
Broken windows, proactive, or quality of life policing is absolutely racist with devastating dehumanizing impacts. This style of policing has been debunked over and over and over again. Quality of life policing is just simply coded language for privileged groups that feel that their quality of lives “improve” by seeing the policing of marginalized groups. Also, we should be outraged by De Blasio’s rationale that violent crimes are down so that we should criminalize marginalized people even more in our crisis of mass incarceration.
A recent study also showed the deep fallacy of broken windows policing. For several weeks from late 2014 through early 2015, the NYPD “protested” the Eric Garner protests by boycotting the enforcement of low level offenses, the foundation of broken windows policing. This boycott actually resulted in a reduction of reported major crimes. Sullivan and O’Keefe, the study authors, write:
The vicious feedback between proactive policing and major crime can exacerbate political and economic inequality across communities. In the absence of reliable evidence of the effectiveness of proactive policing, it is time to consider how proactive policing reform might reduce crime and increase well-being in the most heavily policed communities.
Thus the point of broken windows policing is not based on any evidence that it reduces crime, the actual unstated point is to criminalize and dispossess marginalized communities of color to keep them under the heel of white supremacy.
Additionally, privileged white people become addicted to policing as solution to any fears, which will never end, because fear is essential to maintaining white supremacy. When fear is our existential linchpin, anything can become “dangerous.” In Fremont (CA), families had to sue their homeowners association (HOA), which banned children from playing outside because of “safety” concerns:
Lewis said her two children, 7 and 10, were born and raised in their Fremont home. She said notices were sent to all residents forbidding children under 14 from doing any sports activities — bike riding, playing outside or skateboarding. The HOA said they were worried about everyone’s safety within the community. The notices warned of fines.
Addressing white fear through policing is a bottomless pit.
This is why Olatunji Oboi Reed in Chicago is fiercely fighting the focus of policing in Vision Zero Chicago and the exclusion of the most heavily impacted and marginalized communities from meaningful participation in the planning process.
Vision Zero Apartheid for Immigrant Delivery Workers
Many immigrant delivery workers are highly vulnerable to robbery and assault on the job. Over 40% of immigrant delivery workers report being robbed at least once on the job (left graph), more than double the rate of those born in the US (not a good rate either). Sometimes these robberies are stolen bikes, a costly loss especially for stolen e-bikes. But mostly, immigrant workers report violent muggings and robberies where they are threatened with deadly weapons. Despite the prevalence of robberies, workers have told us the frustration of police inaction when they do try to report robberies.
Wong, a Chinese delivery worker, spoke of the prevalence of robbery and toll it takes on them:
Delivery men will be assaulted during the robbery, have our money taken, and also have our legs broken, our teeth broken. Even if we are injured, we still have to keep working. Even when we call the police, the police come very slowly and the police just make a report, nothing will happen… Some attacks actually killed delivery workers. And we feel really helpless because once we have been killed, no one can take care of our families. It’s as if we just vanished. There are no people who can speak up for us.
One Latino worker showed us the English-only flyer (below) that the NYPD 23rd Precinct passed around to restaurants to advise them on robberies.
What is telling is how the NYPD places the burden of action and responsibility upon a highly vulnerable population of immigrant delivery workers. Since the onus of communicating with customers at the point of delivery is upon the delivery worker not the business, having an English-only flyer demonstrates a lack of understanding or care for what the immigrant workers experience.
It’s hard to imagine a situation where many Upper West Side residents experience violent muggings and the police response is to issue a letter like this in a language that Upper West Side residents are not fluent in.
This lack of care for the actual experiences of violent crimes committed against immigrant workers represents how public safety is segregated. Viewing immigrant delivery workers as the threat to public safety diverts attention from the very real public safety needs of immigrant delivery workers in regards to robbery, assault, and navigating unsafe streets.
Jiang, a Chinese delivery worker, told us that delivery workers used to be primarily scared of being robbed. Now he says, “We get scared when we see the police—fear in the heart. Every ticket is $500. Receiving two tickets, one month’s work goes down the drain.”
Criminalizing marginalized groups, ignoring their safety needs, and making them fear the police is the point of Vision Zero Apartheid. If we want equitable and safe streets, we can’t count on the police to do it for us. The police are not change agents, they reinforce and protect the already existing status quo and hierarchies. We should not indulge the wildest fears of privileged white people who want police officers on every corner. Instead we need to listen to very real experience of harm and trauma of marginalized groups like immigrant delivery workers in our system of racist policing. By truly listening, we can begin to confront how our fictional fears keep the privilege in power by ruining lives.
Part III coming soon-ish