Race and Ethnicity
Race and Ethnicity
Black Lives Matter
Race and Ethnicity
Check a list of useful topics on Racial Profiling selected by experts
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Stop and Frisk and Racial Profiling
The term “racial profiling” has gained popularity with the current political climate, but racially-based policing has prevailed throughout American history. To define the term, racial profiling is the act of suspecting a person has committed a crime or offense based on the individual’s race. Racial profiling is often attributed to law enforcement, but can occur by anyone who acts on the generalizations he or she makes of a specific race or ethnic group.
After the abolition of slavery, African-Americans were still subject to racial profiling throughout the Jim Crow era and even now. The segregation laws in place during the early 20th century only emphasized the overwhelming idea that white people believed they were inherently superior to people of color. Once Jim Crow practices became outlawed, society resorted to more indirect means of systematically disenfranchising African Americans. The underlying racial stigma against African Americans was once again pronounced during the War on Drugs, which incarcerated thousands of nonviolent black men. A major contribution to the proliferation of racial profiling amongst police was with the 1968 case of Terry v. Ohio. In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that if an officer observes unusual behavior by a person they suspect to be a criminal, then they are entitled to search that individual’s belongings. Known as the stop-and-frisk rule, it allows police to stop and search people without warrants, as long as they have reasonable suspicion of harmful and illegal activity. Directly overturning the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirements gave police power to stop, question, and frisk anyone they “suspect”, making it very easy for officers to abuse their powers and act on implicitly biased suspicions. Plenty of evidence showing the racism behind stop-and-frisk exists, showing particularly young black and Latino men, being stopped, frisked, and searched multiple times on their way to school, work, for no apparent reason (Center for Constitutional Rights).
Racial profiling continues to plague our nation despite the laws put in place to prevent it. Evidence showing widespread racial bias is not minimal; biases contribute to racial disparities in law enforcement outcomes, influencing who is stopped by police, what happens to them during those stops, and the severity of their sentences if convicted. African Americans are disproportionately more likely to be stopped and searched by police, even though they are less likely to possess drugs or commit crimes, according to a 2011 report by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. The NYPD’s controversial stop-and-frisk program shows similar evidence of racial profiling, with police targeting blacks and Latinos about 85 percent of the time (NYCLU). While racial profiling can end in tragic murders of unarmed individuals, such as the cases of Eric Garner or Michael Brown, it also leads to several unneeded stops and searches, harassment and intimidation, and even unwarranted confiscation of property.
Racial profiling is not always committed by police. People of color are often deemed as criminal, even while committing normal acts. From having a family barbecue to sitting in their college campuses, black people get the police called on them, simply by virtue of their skin tone. When Michael Hayes, an investor, was inspecting a house, one of the neighbors called the police on him. “You know why the lady called the police on me,” said Hayes, ‘I didn’t give her any reason to believe I was a threat, but she perceived me as a one.’ The perception of black individuals as threats to society is a harmful effect of the racial biases in American society.
Unfortunately, the effects of racial profiling extend to dangerous levels. According to an in depth analysis of police brutality by the Washington Post, black men are “seven times more likely than white men to die by police gunfire while unarmed.” Protests accusing law enforcement officers of being too quick to use lethal force against unarmed African Americans have spread across the country in the past few years since dramatic unrest gripped Ferguson, Missouri, following the fatal police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a white officer. There are countless examples of officers taking away the lives of African Americans, even while unarmed. About 30% of the African Americans victims in 2015 were unarmed, compared with 17% of white people. It’s not a difficult reach to assume that the racial stigma of “violent” black men influences the way police make decisions during altercations.
Racial Profiling is not only unfair to the individuals targeted, but it also deteriorates the public trust in police. When law enforcement officers target citizens based on race, “crime-fighting is less effective and community distrust of police grows,” claims Ranjana Natarajan, the director of the Civil Rights Clinic at The University of Texas School of Law. In her article discussing the loss of confidence in police officers due to racial biases, Natarajan showed that minority communities that had been unfairly targeted by authorities continue to experience greater distrust and fear of police officers, citing a study done by the Harvard Kennedy School on the Los Angeles Police Department.