Racial profiling has over the years continued to climb the charts based on ethnic perceptions that are not true. This discriminatory practice has been engaged in by law enforcement officials over the years, by targeting minority individuals for suspicions of criminal based activity solely founded on the individual’s race or ethnicity. However, the bias-based beliefs system has a long extensive history.
If it’s not corrected by the judicial system and by the enforcement of policies to protect minorities; we will continue to see tragic headlines of minorities being killed due to the color of their skin. Like many other minorities, I strongly believe that racial profiling is a problem based on unfair stigmas in regards to race. I wholeheartedly believe that changes are needed in regards to raising the bar on racial profiling issues and addressing police brutality by enforcing harsher penalties from the judicial system, even though some might undiplomatically oppose these viewpoints.
Bias-based policing in the United States goes as far back as the revolutionary era. African Americans have been in particularly subjected to racial profiling from the days of slavery and throughout the Jim Crow era and up to today’s modern times.
Mexicans and other Latinos have also been singled out for rough treatment by law enforcement since the time of Texas Independence. Immigration laws dating from the late 19th century amounted to racial or ethnic profiling against others ethnic groups. “It's a very difficult history” (Ullmann& Zott 3). The African-Americans history and roots of racial profiling started back to the time that blacks only comprised around one-sixth of the country's population in the pre-Civil War era, the massive majority of them were held in slavery, mainly but not exclusively in the South. Those who escaped known as “runaway” slaves, as they were called, could be captured by private slave hunters under the Fugitive Slave Act, a 1793 law that was latter strengthened in 1850 that offered few procedural protections.
Free blacks had no immunity from capture, as dramatized in the new movie “12 Years a Slave”; courts generally recognized a presumption that a black person was a slave without possessing a Free Negro Registry. This was means of The end of slavery just merely transformed the legally and socially enforced profiling of African-Americans. The racial segregation laws of the Jim Crow era reflected the prevailing assumption that blacks were different from and inferior to whites.
African-Americans suspected or accused of committing crimes could be subjected to abusive treatment by police or sheriffs' officers and to patently unjust proceedings in court. Worse was the threat of racially profiled vigilante justice. More than 3,400 African-Americans were lynched from the 1880s to 1950, according to a compilation by the Tuskegee Institute, the historically black college in Tuskegee, Alabama later renamed Tuskegee University in 1983. Mexicans and Mexican-Americans were also the victims of ethnic profiling from the time of Texas' independence from Mexico and its subsequent annexation by the United States. The Texas Rangers, founded in 1845 and the nation's first statewide police organization, was known, according to the University of Texas' del Carmen, for “brutal acts against Comanche tribes and thousands of Mexicans (Ullmann& Zott 3).
Mexican-Americans in Texas and the Southwest were subjected to the same kind of residential and educational segregation as African-Americans elsewhere. And in the 1930s as many as 2 million people of Mexican descent were forced or pressured to leave the United States. Federal immigration laws dating from the late 19th century reflected ethnic profiling at the national level. The first of the laws, passed in 1875, barred entry to “undesirables,” who included Asians brought to the United States for forced labor or prostitution.
Seven years later, the Chinese Exclusion Act prohibited all immigration of Chinese laborers. In the ensuing decades immigration officers enforced admission requirements, such as literacy tests, in ways that favored northern and western Europeans, del Carmen explains. The quota system enacted in the 1920s wrote those preferences into law. The most notorious episode of ethnic profiling occurred during World War II with the internment of more than an estimated 110,000 persons of Japanese descent, most of them U.S. citizens. President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized the internment in an executive order issued on Feb. 19, 1942, two-and-a-half months after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, based on warnings from the military that the Japanese represented a national security threat.
Today, those warnings are widely viewed as unfounded, the internment in ramshackle concentration camps in remote areas as shameful and the Supreme Court decision, Korematsu v. United States 1944, upholding the action as disgraceful. Up until, the court's decision in Korematsu established the principle that race-based restrictions in the law are “immediately suspect.” Courts “must subject [such restrictions] to the most rigid scrutiny,” Justice Hugo L. Black wrote for the 6-3 majority. “Pressing necessity may sometimes justify the existence of such restrictions,” he continued. “Racial antagonism never can” (Ullmann& Zott 4). That principle laid the basis for courts, legislatures and law enforcement agencies later in the 20th century to give greater scrutiny to racial and ethnic profiling.
Racial and ethnic profiling emerged as an important issue late in the 20th century because of a confluence of factors. The civil rights revolution embodied the demand of African-Americans for equal treatment under the law, including by police. The rapid increase in the Latino population, especially from the 1980s, prompted analogous demands from Latino advocacy groups to eliminate discriminatory treatment. And the criminal law revolution wrought by the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren subjected local and state law enforcement to greater scrutiny to comply with constitutional norms. Meanwhile, “public concern about crime and, in particular, about illegal drugs led police and law enforcement agencies to adopt tactics often disproportionately aimed at African-Americans and Latinos, sometimes consciously” (Natarajan 2).
The Warren Court's major criminal law decisions, such as the Miranda ruling on police interrogation guidelines benefited white and minority suspects and defendants alike. Despite criticism for supposedly “handcuffing” police, the Warren Court also gave police an important tool in its 1968 Terry decision, upholding with only one dissenting vote, the “stop-and-frisk” procedure. The court noted complaints of harassment by African-Americans, however, in stressing the need to limit the procedure to “the legitimate investigative sphere.” Meanwhile, the so-called Kerner Commission, appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in response to urban riots of the mid-'60s, had issued a comprehensive report in 1968 recommending, among other steps, the hiring of more diverse and more sensitive police forces, although the process of continuing these practices didn’t seem to be followed through (Natarajan 2). The Supreme Court's initial encounter with the profiling issue came in a pair of immigration-related cases in the mid-1970s.
In the first, the court in 1975 ruled that a roving Border Patrol car could not stop a vehicle solely because the driver or passengers appeared to be of Mexican ancestry. Appearance was a “relevant factor,” Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. wrote, but not enough to “justify stopping all Mexican-Americans to ask if they are aliens.” A year later, however, the court ruled that agents at a border checkpoint could select motorists for secondary inspection based solely on apparent Mexican ancestry (Natarajan 3). The formal art of “profiling” began in the 1970s, as police and the FBI tried to identify characteristics to spot in potential serial killers or airline hijackers. From those rare offenses, the practice expanded to the so-called war on drugs with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) development of a drug courier profile in the 1980s. The DEA never published the profile, but evidence in some cases showed that profiles sometimes specifically referred to African-Americans or Hispanics.
In any event, the open-ended characteristics gave agents broad discretion in selecting individuals to stop. The Supreme Court green-lighted the use of such profiles in a 1989 decision stemming from the search of a deplaning passenger at the Honolulu airport. By a 7-2 vote, the court found the combination of six listed factors justified the stop and search; the dissenters countered that none of the factors specifically pointed to criminal activity (Natarajan 3). Through the 1990s, evidence mounted that African-Americans were far and away the majority of motorists stopped in drug-related enforcement. Wilkins' suit in Maryland was the first to uncover hard evidence of targeting of African-Americans, as recounted by Harris, the University of Pittsburgh professor.
A state police “Criminal Intelligence Report,” disclosed during the suit and dated only days before Wilkins was stopped, included an explicit profile targeting African-Americans. The data gathering that resulted from the settlement of Wilkins' suit showed that 72 percent of those stopped in Maryland were African-Americans. The litigation and newspaper investigations in New Jersey produced similar evidence that the vast majority of motorists stopped on the state's turnpikes were African-Americans. Despite such evidence, the Supreme Court declined in 1996 to question the use of traffic stops as a pretext for drug enforcement.
The decisions stemmed from the convictions of two African-Americans who had been found with drugs after police officers patrolling a “high-drug” area in Washington, D.C., stopped them ostensibly because of a taillight violation. Unanimously, the court said the officers' “ulterior motives” did not matter as long as they had probable cause for the stop (Natarajan 3). President Bill Clinton cited the evidence of racial profiling in traffic stops, however, when he ordered federal law enforcement agencies in June 1999 to begin collecting data on the race or ethnicity of individuals they question, search or arrest. The Justice Department was to use the data to determine whether federal officers were engaging in racial profiling and, if so, what should be done to stop the practice.
Clinton said he hoped state and local law enforcement agencies would adopt similar steps to try to eliminate what he called a “morally indefensible” practice. Racial profiling, he said, “is wrong, it is destructive and it must stop” (Natarajan 4). In a special report by the American Civil Liberties Union, Driving While Black: Racial Profiling on our Nation’s Highways. David A. Harris a statistic researcher at the University of Toledo College of Law says, “Racial profiling is based on the premises that most drug offenses are committed by minorities” (4). Due to this unfounded claim the article disclosed that more often African Americans and Latinos are pulled over and searched for contraband while white drivers receive notably far less attention.
This means more frequently Caucasian drug dealers go undetected; leading to the stigma that whites commit fewer crimes than minorities. Statics shows that according to NYPD’s controversial stop- and-frisk program minorities are the direct target 85% of the time by white police officers; with a 90% rate of finding absolutely no type of smuggled goods on minorities pinpointed as suspect to these unfounded searches (Natarajan 2). In addition, even minorities who live above stellar and influential lives still face the humiliation of being apprehended just for being black. Ronald S. Sullivan a professor at Harvard Law School and a high- earning successful professional still braces himself during encounters with the police.
Sullivan said, “No matter how much money I have in my pocket, if I’m stopped by police late at night in my car I am afraid,” Sullivan said. What they see first and foremost is my black skin. And I know that and behave accordingly” (Vega 4).
Raising the question asked: “What advances does a black man have to reach to receive non-discriminatory treatment?” (Vega 5). Every day it seems as if the media presents another trending calamity among minorities such as the loss of Alton Sterling, Eric Gardner, Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin who all died as a result of police brutality. Even though substantial evidences have been undoubtedly presented in all of these cases to the judicial system, they still refuse to serve justice that is rightfully due. In one of the heart-felt moving narratives written by students of BRCC in the Voices of the Bayou she states, “I believe if Alton Sterling had been white he would still be alive today” (95).
What a misfortune it is to have a life taken by making presumable assumption based on the color of someone’s skin. I often times think about the time when I was pulled over by the police on trip back home to Louisiana by a white officer in the state of Mississippi. I was driving a nice car and had on baggy clothes and hooded shirt for the comfort of a long drive. I present all of my car documents, license and insurance; and still was asked to see what was in my trunk. Luckily my parents always reminded me to stay calm and be extra respectful. Thinking back on their profound wisdom that I’m certain came from a place of experience; I’m grateful that I adhered to their advice.
I too…, could have been the story like that of Sandra Bland; an African American female black activist, who was pulled over by a white police officer in a traffic stop. Sandra refusal was said not to fully comply with the officer, which lead to altercation between the two. After her arrest she was supposedly found dead as a result of suicide by affixation. Mysteriously the police’s web cam and the jail’s camera system failed to capture the full recording of either instance for evidence. Again another life tragically lost and no justice by the judicial system.
Many of those in support of the opposing views don’t think of racial profiling and police brutality as being an issues of major concern. They just believe that law enforcement officers are doing what they are authorized to do. Some have even made the claim that racial profiling is a legitimate predictive tool that increase the odds of catching the right criminals. The new epidemic is now placing the blame on the so-called war on drugs and criminal activities as the reason behind these police crimes disproportionately affecting minorities. According to an article on Racial Profiling: Opposing Viewpoints edited by Carrol Ullmann and Lynn M. Zott an overwhelming majority amount of homicides are justifiable (1).
This oppositional thinking was fuel with the belief system that demotes the actual existence of police brutality as simply an action of self-defense. In addition, to giving factual claim that in 2013 as many as 49,851 police officers were assaulted while 29% were injured and 27 were killed (Ullmann & Zott 2).
Unfortunately, the statics still didn’t address the fact that these accounts of police deaths were not superseded by minorities being the leading ethnic group in these cases. Which highlight my viewpoint that white officer has substantially lead the way in landslide in regards to innocent minorities being killed by the hands of law enforcement. Greater strides must be made to better advocate that racial profiling and police brutality are out of control. These negative stigmas in relationship to minorities must be changed. The change starts by eliminating the unfounded viewpoints of those in opposition as faulty foundations of the “ill-wills” of society. Minorities should not be instinctively labeled as untamed beast just based on the pigment and color of our skin.
All the more, by giving undue passes to racist cops to excusably kill us and use the injustice favoritism of the judicial system to uphold their wrong doing. Minorities lives matter just as much as any other ethnic group. They should be valued as humane and upheld by the constitutional rights outlined in the judicial system.
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