Since the beginning of the twentieth century African Americans have struggled to cohesively integrate into the greater American society. Even though a number of generations buffer today’s society from the evil that was slavery, there is still a collective subconscious wound that manifests itself in both African American and Caucasian cultures. In todays, “racially open” society, racial profiling towards African American men can be witnessed frequently in everyday life.
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Many generations of African Americans have been stereotyped, treated unequally, and often psychologically held back from success. This is not something that has happened over night, but rather this behavior has been perpetual from each successive generation. For most of American history African American men have been considered below all other races in terms of being poorly educated, being financially unstable, and having a tendency to commit crime. This is simply a prime example of stereotypes and racial profiling based solely on the darkness of their skin. It is important to note that crime tends to derive from poverty, and in happen stance there is a larger ratio of poverty in African Americans than Caucasians. It is a fallacy to suggest that since a higher percentage of African Americans are near the poverty line, they must therefore commit more crime. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) from the Federal Bureau of Justice;
White’s commit 58.3% of all Non-lethal violent crime, while Black’s commit around 39.4%.
In racially motivated hate crimes Whites were the offenders 46% of the time, while the Black’s were the offenders only 10.6% of the time.
In white collar crimes, Black’s were prosecuted 30.9% of the time, while for the same type of crimes White’s were prosecuted a staggering 67.4% of the time.
For property related crimes which include burglary, theft, and arson Black’s only commit 30.1%. For the same crimes White’s were prosecuted 67.4% of the time. (BJS, 2005).
Given these statistics it seems rather counter intuitive that most people of all races in the U.S. will assume that African American men are more prone to a life of crime. It’s not until America focuses on the way Americans are educated that we begin to see why these perceptions occur. In American education is obtainable for anyone who is willing to work for it, no matter what race, gender, or ethnic background they may be. This is a diverse country and consequently it would be non productive to have claim that one racial group is better educated than another is. Most African American men are considered poorly educated because they had the unfortunate luck to be born in a poorer area with less than adequate funded schools. This creates another basis of stereotype against African Americans being uneducated. Sadly enough in the society people and groups tend to be judges according to education level, where they live or are from, and whom they associate.
Most of what is seen in the media regarding lower class African American communities tends to be negative information. There is always something being said about how their respective lifestyles lead to selling drugs, gang participation, and general violence. This is also racial profiling because the media does not discuss all of the areas in which good things happen. For example; local church groups, boys and girls clubs, and extracurricular athletics. There are other groups that have gangs for instance; the Latino’s, Native Americans, and Asian’s but it is very rare to hear about them in the media. There are times when the general media seems to be sympathetic for this group of people and show things that are considered racial profiling towards this group. There have been many instances of negative reactions directed toward African American men in the last decade. One of the most publicized, and most often to occur, are the occasions where police are charged with brutality, and sometimes racially motivated murder against African American men. Although this may not be the case in many areas across the United States, it is very common in specific areas. An African American male could get pulled over on the highway for a petty speeding ticket, pulled out of his car, and beaten horribly for just saying something that the officer did not agree with. Most of the areas that are highly populated with African American men tend to be ones that receive the highest racial profiling. Most crimes committed in these areas are committed in most part by African American men, and that gives the police department more reason to suspect black males opposed to any other groups. In areas like these racial profiling is considered a tool used by police officers and not really viewed as something that is wrong. However, a fine line is crossed between using this as a scapegoat to conduct unethical racist behavior and simply enforcing the law. (Hilary, 2010).
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In 1991 the most famous case of police brutality arose when an African American man was severely beaten on camera. Rodney King was excessively beaten by Los Angeles Police officers who used, batons, tasers, and boots. At the time, King was severely intoxicated which was the reason he was being, “questioned”. An innocent bystander actually videoed this incident from a distance in horror as officers repeatedly assaulted this man without anyone so much as saying stop. When the video went public the networks fueled the local community with outrage over what they had witnessed. This incident alone was enough to cause an upset within the African American community, but then in 1992 the officers accused of assaulting the young King was acquitted of all charges. This sparked the L.A. Riots of 1992 which were also known as the Rodney King Riots. African Americans decided to take the law into their own hands by showing displays of extremely violent behavior. Arson, assault, looting, and murder began to break out all over the city of Los Angeles as the African American began to protest the verdict of the hearing. For six days after the verdict was read this continued and by the end of the riots there was over 1 billion dollars in damage done to the city of Los Angeles. Over the years African Americans have began to realize that this behavior they have displayed such as in the riots of 1992 is some reason for the racial profiling. This group of people has begun to voice their opinions in less violent ways and realize that their voices are being heard. This behavior has actually helped them in society with eliminating some of the opinions that people have had about them as far as fights, murder, and stealing. Although this a small step this is one giant step in the fight against racial profiling. With any experience where African Americans men are profiled and treated poorly it soon becomes a problem between the both Blacks and Whites. The African Americans see this as racial profiling and it starts a massive controversy if the officers are not punished properly. There are many situations however where the police officer may be defending themselves and the suspect is African American this is not considered racial profiling, but it still causes uproar in the community of blacks. (Hilary, 2010).
This is when America must be active and put faith in the judicial system and let appointed judge’s decide what is right from wrong, more specifically constitutional.
Although racial profiling is very common there are particular people and areas who are trying to change this social issue. Police departments are starting to put their officers in classes that will help them realize what actions could be displayed as racial profiling and how to conduct themselves in a manner that would cut out the possibility of racial profiling. This is very helpful to officers who may not know that certain actions are considered wrong and could be punishable by law. No matter how hard people try to control this issue there is still the fact that some people are just racist and consequently are not going to take the training seriously and continue to do what they are doing. Racial profiling is actually a lot higher in areas where they black population is lower than the white population. It is extremely difficult for African American males to find employment, buy homes, and build a great community status with where they are living and the stereotypes associated with them.
African American males are typically labeled as the trouble makers in most areas and not trusted based on the simple fact they are labeled also as thieves. Most people do not sit back and take the time to realize that anyone can steal, kill, or any other criminal offense no matter the color of their skin. This is also something that makes racial profiling so hard because people do not realize that no matter what social group they are equal and the world is very diverse no matter what area is observed. Everyday law officials and civic groups are trying to overturn racial profiling by making laws that would ban this from being used as a police tactic. This would make the punishments more severe, whilst keeping everyone safe from racial profiling. Even with the changes that have been made in society, race will continue to be an issue. Just this year Americans voiced their opinions everywhere when they voted the first African American male to presidency. This was huge step not for just the African American men in this country, but also this group of people as well.
To conclude, racial profiling appears to be a collective form of ignorance. In order to overcome these stereotypes of each other, it is important that American Society remain open to racial discussion. Not only that but to also recognize history for what it is, take it as a valuable lesson, but not to relive the emotional hurt from generation to generation. Faith in the humans ability to problem-solve is what is needed to overcome these issues. America has taken a huge step forward in the nomination of the first African American president. However, American must realize that is only one step in a long road to equality.
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