Racial Profiling in Modern Society

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In recent years, racial profiling has become a controversial matter throughout the US law enforcement policy. According to Miller (2007), racial profiling has become an omnipresent term throughout American policing, leading to an unclear consensus pertaining to its actual meaning. Society has formed a basic definition in concern with racial disparities in traffic stops from law enforcement.

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This influences the assumption of profiling to appear whether to hire, enforce a traffic stop, or even acknowledge suspicion of someone (Miller, 2007). While racial profiling brings a great amount of attention towards the public, policy makers, and police officers personally, one major outcome following this sort of attention aligns with the desire to bring attention towards the issue of policy that potentially prohibit this behavior that could be characterized as racial profiling (Miller, 2007). Focusing on the policy perspective of the issue, various nonprofit groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, the Police Executive Research Forum, and even the International Association of Chiefs of Police have identified racial profiling as being a growing issue for law enforcement nationwide (Miller, 2007).

The act of using ones’ race or ethnicity for justification of suspecting them of committing an offense has been portrayed in various ways, stopping drivers for minor traffic violations to carry out a search or deciding which pedestrian will be stopped and searched for illegal contraband. In addition, racial profiling has been used in means to target and exploit individuals in the investigation of illegal immigration and ties to terrorism. As the amount of profiling incidents remain continuous, the spotlight on the issue at hand continues to widen, including an increase in the tension and dispute within the trust of law enforcement to maintain public safety. While it may have a direct impact on the victims, racial profiling shows a ripple effect throughout the remainder of society in the aspects of business, health and public safety. Miller (2007) expresses that from policy makers and police officials points of views, profiling is a secluded issue that is influenced by the actions of the small percentage of unprofessional and racist officers. As a result, associations such as the International Association of Chiefs of Police insist that profiling is as much of an issue for police as it can be for perception of the reality of the concept, leading police organizations to considering a seizure on profiling as a problem in order to encourage a change in public perception versus organized or officer behavior (Miller, 2007).

In the study conducted by Miller (2007), he mentions a study by the Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics (LEMAS), and how it addresses the prevalence of police in response to threats directed at police image and legitimacy in regard to racial profiling. According to the data that was a result of this study by LEMAS, racial profiling has increased as a force culturally that leaves law enforcement unable to ignore. Since this data had been collected, it has been revealed that more and more law enforcement agencies are obtaining possession of a specific policy to address racial profiling (Miller, 2007).

Before Racial Profiling

While the term racial profiling has only been developed in recent years, the act of discrimination against ones’ race or ethnicity has been in use dating back to the pre-Civil War era. According to Harris (2006), this era had been known as a time of slaveholding giving citizens known as slave patrols the right to enter the homes of slaves, perform illegal searches and seizures, remove the resident from their home and administering beatings. What would later become recognized in the U.S. as a racial profiling scheme within law enforcement was related to the attempt by the U.S. government to attack drug trafficking beginning in the 1980s (Harris, 2006). Through this attempt the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration or DEA, would use a list of commonly known characteristics to construct drug courier profiles and these profiles would be used to take aim at passengers on commercial airliners who may potentially be transferring a certain quantity of narcotics (Harris, 2006). Following an extensive amount of time involving accusations and denials, eventually states began to pass some form of legislation regarding the question of racial profiling, and research by Harris (2006) shows that these laws have encouraged data on police stops and searches and race to be gathered by law enforcement departments that are initially not obligated by law to do so. Today, racial profiling can be placed into two separate meanings, hard profiling and soft profiling. Hard’ profiling is used in terms of race being the only factor in assessing suspicious criminal behavior. Soft’ profiling is used when race is one of the factors among various others during probable cause when determining the purpose for a stop.

Routine Traffic Stops

Research according to Welch (2007) highlights the accuracy of disproportionate ties between African Americans and the act of crime. The common stereotype presented by Whites relates inherent characteristics of Blacks and the long-standing view of criminal behavior (Welch, 2007). Although it is proven that most criminal acts are committed by Whites, the most common perception of criminal behavior is assumed to be executed by Blacks. Racial profiling has the power to doubt the legitimacy of law enforcement and its policies. One of the largest ongoing debates regarding Blacks and the claimed used of racial profiling happens regarding traffic stops. Studies focused on racial profiling including research by Welch (2007) show a greater likelihood for Blacks to be stopped for minor traffic violations as well as nondriving traffic violations (e.g. vehicle defects, license and registration checks) than Whites. This doesn’t consider in some cases being more likely to receive a ticket and/or be arrested during a traffic stop (Welch, 2007). Situations like these increase the chances of a separate, yet related, central issue of whether disparity of treatment initiates discrimination. Understanding the difference between the two can allow for the separation if a legal issue imposes. A disparity concerns a difference that may be the result of factors such as legal factors that do not present discrimination. Discrimination, on the other hand, concerns a difference based on contrasting treatments of groups disregarding their behavior and/or qualifications. Specifically related to traffic stops, if a law enforcement officer were to stop a motor vehicle from the impression based upon a level of probable cause (e.g. a violation of the motor vehicle code), this alone is based on disparity. What greater issues may surface following the matter occurring from the traffic stop can lead into crossing the line towards discrimination. With the media involved, this line can be exceptionally thin.

Retail Profiling

Although racial profiling research has been devoted to uncovering criminal activity within traffic stops, a larger discourse on the use of racial profiling has been in effect at airports in order to identify terrorists and shoplifters (Gabbidon & Laws, 2013). Comprehensively, traffic stops and airports have gathered the most interest, but racial profiling in retail settings have recently begun to steal the spotlight in the perspective of both criminologists and business scholars. Blacks who have alleged they have been victim to racial profiling while shopping may describe this as shopping while black’, but scholars tend to refer to this as consumer racial profiling (CRP) (Gabbidon & Laws, 2013). In the setting of CRP, some can be so quick to victimize an individual by their race raising concern for continued investigation within this form of racial profiling. In business, having prior experience with minorities shoplifting may be a reoccurring claimed theme, leading to a perspective of minorities being more likely to steal, ultimately encouraging the blame through stereotyping (Gabbidon & Laws, 2013). In this study Gabbidon and Laws (2013) show an issue with determining who should receive additional suspicion according to the location and neighborhood socio-economics alone. Once more, this increases the targeted minorities and the number of arrests within the minority group.

War on Terrorism

Racial profiling and its dependence from the government has profoundly extended since the incident on September 11, 2001. Prior to September 11, many Americans were found to be opposed to the concept of racial profiling, but this perspective suddenly changed and was made evident ever since the occurrence of September 11. Following this incident, the Federal Bureau of Investigation had reported an increase of 1600% in hate crimes against the American Muslim population which is estimated to be an average 5.4 million (Padela and Heisler, 2010) This event influenced the announcement of the War on Terrorism, a term describing the global counterterrorism campaign led and launched through America, leading to individuals being arrested, questioned, or detained countrywide due to victimization of racial profiling whether they were guilty or not. War on terrorism is. Critics through this period argued that this campaign had accomplished more damage than it had success seeing that the war in Afghanistan caused the al-Qaeda network to scatter, making it more difficult to counteract. In addition to influencing anti-Americanism throughout the Muslim world, uniting dissimilar groups with common cause. Simultaneously, within the nation, communities of Muslims and Arabs have become a target of U.S. governmental policies falling victim to racial profiling in airports and throughout the streets due to a widespread usage of media.

Power Through Media

When the media gets involved in public matter, it holds the power of influence on society’s mind and perspective on any publicly announced incident. Many studies have overlooked the construction of the media and how easily it can manipulate the public’s attitude on racial profiling through simple dialogue. As stated by Graziano, Schuck, and Martin (2010), what qualifies as a problem to the American public at any given moment has more to do with what people are paying attention to, and how they perceive the issue, than with objective conditions. Through framing the issue in a certain manner, the public’s perception based on the underlying causes and possible consequences of the issue can be influenced (Graziano et al., 2010). When it comes to the media, racial hoaxes can be a common theme, in other words, when someone concocts a crime and places the blame on someone else because of their race or even when an actual offense has been committed and the blame is placed on an individual because of their race (Walker, Spohn, & Delone, 2016). Hoaxes gain a great amount of publicity due to their sensational and violent tendencies. As mentioned by Walker et al. (2016), an infamous racial hoax was created by a woman named Susan Smith in South Carolina in the year 1994. She claimed an African-American male had stolen her car with her kids still trapped inside. Reality of the situation was this woman had driven her car, with her children in the backseat, into a lake.

Profiling Through Healthcare

In comparison with Whites, African Americans have dealt with a disproportionate burden in disease morbidity, mortality, disability, and injury dating back from the pre-Civil War era to present time (Mays, Cochran, & Barnes, 2014). Researchers continue to recognize that something has gone wrong regarding the medical treatment of minority patients (Bowser, 2001). According to Bowser (2001), studies continuously reveal disparities between treatment decisions and seem unable to be explained through factors such as economic status, heath insurance status, or even condition upon presentation. However, racial profiling may not be a completely negative aspect in healthcare. As studied by Wolinsky (2011), racial profiling may be a stepping stone towards personalized health care in the form of race-based therapies and diagnostics. Wolinsky (2011) mentions in his study that knowledge of the human genome is increasing while providing openings for opportunities to market specific medical products toward various ethnic groups. While racial profiling works its way into everyday necessities such as healthcare, growing knowledge shuts discrimination down. As of a decade ago, a preliminary sequence of the human genome noted humans were almost the same genetically, which implicated the irrelevancy of race (Wolinsky, 2011).

Arizona’s New Approach

In a different approach, Arizona recently passed a bill in 2010 that many argue is a form of racial bias against immigrants. Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070 (S.B. 1070) was passed as an anti-illegal immigration measure and subsequently became known as one of the most broad and strict laws of its kind during the time that it had taken effect (Newman, 2017). As mentioned by Newman (2017), this law requires police to determine the immigrant status of someone arrested or detained when there is some reasonable suspicion that they are not a legal United States citizen. Formally, this law is entitled Support our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act. Prior to the passage of S.B. 1070, the community of Latinos in Arizona had been working to protect both the civil and human rights of Latinos in the state through organizations such as Somos America (We Are America), the National Day Labor Organizing Network, and Los Abogados (Newman, 2017). These were the beginnings of the efforts to combat anti-Latino and anti-immigrant sentiment throughout the state. Newman (2017) addressed the national debate that the passing of S.B. 1070 had ignited with opponents of the law arguing a lead towards unconstitutional racial profiling with harassment of the Latino community among other minority groups of Arizona.

Stop-And-Frisk Failed Remedy

The release of the S.B. 1070 is similar to the stop-and-frisk laws in New York City due to the prevalence of racial profiling among each (Newman, 2017). Stop-and-frisk practices began in the 1960s and correlate with the racial profiling of searching and seizing beyond a reasonable suspicion. Reasonable suspicion falls slightly above a gut feeling’ and below probable cause leaving a low standard to be satisfied when articulating a reason for suspicion to stop and search an individual. The Daniels, et al. v. City of New York, et al. is the landmark case that followed the Terry decision. During this lawsuit, it was alleged that officers had stopped them because of their race and national origin, which was in clear violation of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause (Newman, 2017). At the end of the settlement, it was determined that the New York City’s stop-and-frisk practices had in fact violated both the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments governing the Court to order a remedial process to which a new set of reforms would be created through the direct input of the people who were most affected by the discriminatory stop-and-frisk practices (Newman, 2017).

There remain no laws that are in place to entirely end racial profiling, though it does violate a rudimentary principle of the nation’s democracy, equal protection of the law. Established in 1868 as the 14th amendment of the Constitution, proclaimed the citizenship of African-Americans and equal protection of these laws that included having the right to life, to liberty, property and due process. Rooted stereotypes and unconscious bias can be abraded through obtaining proper knowledge and exposure to those minorities who aren’t fit to common stereotypes, and these stereotypes and bias can be controlled by holding those accountable for their own decisions. Instead of allowing oneself to become tangled up in how the media portrays public occurrences, it should be priority to gain the appropriate knowledge of the matter at hand before jumping to any biases or opinions through the influence of others. The use of collected data on racial disparities in police stops should continue to elevate to reduce problematic behaviors or assumptions. One of the greatest issues at hand to be controlled and eliminated is bias, and to relieve this comes back to acquiring and comprehending the proper knowledge.

At the end of the day, it is against everything moral to judge an individual based strictly upon their physical characteristics. This in short is everything that racial profiling is. However, there does exist a group of American citizens who will continue to consider profiling as a tool for protection of security and punishing illegality. So long as this group exists, one that believes profiling creates more harm than benefits will stand alongside. By purposely placing groups as a target for threats, racial profiling brings forth pervasive scrutiny upon many undeserving and innocent citizens, generating a sense of exclusion, alienation, and unnecessary fear.

In conclusion, regardless of the debatable views of the existence of racial profiling nationwide, it has continuously been proven by statistical data and social justice organizations to be very much alive in modern society. Since before the time of legalized slavery, racism and bigotry has relentlessly tormented this country. Due to the action of placing specific laws and protections not being taken into effect, racial profiling will refuse to cease.

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