Racial profiling continues to be a sensitive issue in our society today. The arguments in support of racial profiling involve the belief that there is a need to provide another layer of security for the country in order to protect it while the arguments that are against racial profiling involve a form of conflict with civil liberties, human rights and those who are advocates and vocal about these rights. The goal of this paper is to be open to both sides of the issue by striving to be impartial and not lean on any biases that one might have. Thus, this paper will explore any rhetorical devices, biases, and fallacies found in the articles written whether they are in support of racial profiling or are against racial profiling. In doing so, one will be able to derive one’s own opinion regarding racial profiling as a critical thinker.
Racial profiling in law enforcement is an ongoing issue in our society today. Some argue against it stating that it can cause certain racial groups to be treated unfairly over another and result in a distrust in law enforcement, while others argue that it can be used as a useful tool to combat terrorism and can be effective in ensuring public safety. In general, the argument against racial profiling involve human rights issues, while the arguments that support racial profiling involve security issues.
Arguments in support of racial profiling state that there are cases where racial profiling is appropriate and can be morally justified. Corlett (2011) wrote that on April 2019, a sting operation was conducted in Ontario, California for a powerful local Latino gang with a long history of drug dealing and prostitution. The FBI and the Ontario Police department had profiled several Latinos during this sting operation. Corlett argues that, in this instance, racial profiling is reasonable because it would make no sense for other cultures to be targeted when the gang is Latino and further goes on to state that profiling, on its own, is not necessarily morally wrong but rather it is how it is applied to a situation that make it right or wrong.
Those who argue in support racial profiling also argue that it is a necessary tool for law enforcement. Police officers can concentrate their efforts and become more efficient when they investigate a particular racial group who have been found to have higher incidences of committing a particular crime than other racial groups (Bou-Habib, 2011). Due to the threat of terrorism in the United States, profiling an individual’s behavior and appearance is necessary and is needed by law enforcement in order to ensure public safety (Reddick, 2004).
Arguments against racial profiling argue that it is morally unjustified due to the violation of human rights that it can result in because it can cause unfair treatment against certain racial groups when they are treated different from another racial group under the same situation (Bou-Habib, 2011). In public settings, it can result in a situation of humiliation for those who are racially profiled because they may feel that onlookers can see them in a demeaning way. Racial profiling implies that a certain racial group cannot comply with the law when compared to another racial group, and therefore it is morally unjustified (Bou-Habib, 2011).
Those who are against racial profiling argue that it should not be used in law enforcement because it can cause those who are racially profiled to be wary and distrust law enforcement. Hosein (2018) writes that the FBI has been found to have abused the trust of Arab, Muslim, Middle Eastern, and South Asian communities when they were found to have been spying on these communities under the guise of community outreach events. Hosein further states that this can result in those who are racially profiled to lose their political voice because it can create a situation wherein they will believe that government will not be responsive to them or their rights. Hosein states that racial profiling is unnecessary and instead, randomized screening should be used to spread law enforcement equally across the entire population.
Gatekeepers influence involves the selection and extraction of news or information through gatekeepers, journalists for example, until they end up as news or information that is accessible to the public. How this information is extracted influences how a public will view a current issue. In the case of racial profiling, how the writer or the journalist expresses their cases for racial profiling, can highly influence whether the public will support or condemn certain cases. In the case of those who are in support of racial profiling, eighty percent of Americans were highly opposed to racial profiling before the events of September 11 however, after these events, sixty percent of American believe that it is necessary for national security (Reddick, 2004).
This is an example of gatekeepers influence because in this instance the media, who act as gatekeepers, influenced the flow of information regarding terrorism to the public and this can be noted by the drastic change of percentages of those who are in support of racial profiling. Regardless of what side the author is, whether they support or they are against racial profiling, one can note that both sides use rhetorical devices, fallacies, and that they have their own biases in the article or research that is written.
Rhetorical devices are persuasive devices that are used in order to win someone over to a specific point of view (Thomas et al., 2007). How the author uses these persuasive devices, can also affect how the public views certain issues. When Reddick (2018) writes that eighty percent of Americans were opposed to racial profiling, she repeats the words ‘percentage’ and ‘profiling’ again in the following sentences to further emphasize her points. This rhetorical device is repetition and is used by authors in order to repeatedly get their points across. Repetition can possibly dull an individual’s critical thinking and cause them to believe in something simply because they have heard it over and over again (Thomas et al., 2007).
Authors use loaded questions, another rhetorical device, to imply something without really saying so. Hosein (2018) uses loaded questions in his paper to further emphasize his point. He asks that if profiling catches more criminals, the shouldn’t it be more justified ? Hyperboles or exaggerations are also used by authors in the art of persuasion. Bou-Habib (2018) writes about the humiliation that those who are racially profiled experience comparing it to being left naked in full view for the public to see. He uses this hyperbole in order to persuade other individuals to side with him.
Fallacies are errors in reasoning wherein there is a lack of any logical connection between the premise of an argument to the conclusion. Reddick (2018) writes one such fallacy when she writes that every weapon must be used in the fight against terrorists who do not value their own lives and the lives of others. This fallacy falls under hasty generalization. Even if one can assume that this statement is true, that is, that one or more terrorists have admitted to this as fact, the author did not present any evidence to this regard and also it generalizes that all terrorists, and not just one, do not value their own lives. Bou-Habib (2018) also writes one such fallacy when he speaks of the humiliation that those who are racially profiled experience as he compares it with the feeling of being naked in public or having a teacher call out a students mistakes in class.
This fallacy is an appeal to pity because the discussion of humiliation and embarrassment makes the reader empathize with these individuals. The comparison of experiencing racial profiling and being naked in public is meant to sway the reader to agree with their argument and to make the audience believe that the argument is valid. Another fallacy mentioned in the article by Reddick (2018) would be when she argues against using random selection in airports as opposed to racially profiling stating that random selection would allow an Arabic man, possibly a terrorist, to go through airport security while an innocent grandmother is strip searched. This is a strawman fallacy because she gives the impression that she is refuting the argument, but in reality, she is only distorting it. The proposal for random selection says nothing about strip-searching a grandmother, but Reddick uses this in her argument in order to make random selection seem ridiculous.
Biases can influence how one can present information because it can cause them to sway to the side that they are more inclined to believe in, even without intending to. Reddick (2004) writes of her cultural bias, when she writes about the three thousand lives lost on September 11th, due to ineffective security at the airport, further stating that it has caused travel to become unsafe and thus the need for the use of profiling. She uses this to justify racial profiling as a necessary tool to protect the United States from the threat of terrorism.
In this case, Reddick presents her view as a negative bias focusing on the negativity in order to justify the need for racial profiling when enforcing the law. Hosein (2018) writes of his own personal biases against racial profiling when he writes about how black people have multiple reasons to be distrustful of the criminal justice system and he cites several situations that are in support of his claim. In this case, Hosein uses confirmation biases in order further support his claim regarding the injustice of racial profiling.
As critical thinkers, we must realize that any information that we receive, regardless of how credible the source is, has been filtered and therefore can be limited and prone to bias and fallacies. When we recognize this, we will be able to view other perspectives and learn about the different sides of different issues. We must realize that everything is always open to interpretation. That is, any statement can be filtered or changed to a different thing than what has been intended because of the gatekeeper’s influence.
Therefore, we must interpret the information that we receive in the most critical and impartial way possible. We must consider not only one side of the argument but both sides of the argument and find value in each before deriving our own opinions. To be a logical thinker means that we should not lean to bias but rather strive to for impartiality by being open to both sides of the story .
- Bou-Habib, Paul. “Racial Profiling and Background Injustice.” Journal of Ethics, vol. 15, no. 1/2, Mar. 2011, pp. 33–46. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1007/s10892-010-9091-x.
- Corlett, J. (2011). Profiling color. The Journal of Ethics, 15(1-2), 21-32.
- Hosein, Adam Omar. “Racial Profiling and a Reasonable Sense of Inferior Political Status.” Journal of Political Philosophy, vol. 26, no. 3, Sept. 2018, pp. e1–e20. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1111/jopp.12162.
- Moore, B. N., Parker, R., Rosenstand, N., & Silvers, A. (2015). Critical thinking. Dubuque: McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc
- Reddick, S. (2004). Point: The case for profiling. International Social Science Review, 79(3-4), 154-156.