Racial profiling is becoming one of the most talked about issues in the United States right now. There are many movements and comments used on social media that are based on racial issues that have occurred between the police and people of color. Social media is a key source in which people are able to view parts and pieces of what many would call “racial profiling.” Racial profiling is best described as assuming suspicious behavior based off of someone’s race or ethnicity. There are many sides to a story and with racial profiling and the media, it is hard to find out which one is the right side.
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“Racial profiling is described as the discriminatory practice by law enforcement officials of targeting individuals for suspicion of crime based on race, ethnicity, religion, or national origin.” (Racial Profiling: Definition, n.d. p. 1) Police profile criminals based on characteristics that they associate with crimes. There are many different types of authority who can be involved in racial profiling. The most common types of people who are accused of racial profiling are the police, security guards in malls and stores, and since 9/11 airport security have been accused of profiling someone based on a specific race. Currently there are a lot of social media hashtags and posts that use “Driving while black” as a way to explain that they were racially profiled. “Driving while black” is the result of the idea that African Americans are being pulled over and searched more than white people. Law enforcement officers often see situations that likely involve crime and they see the types of people who are commonly commenting these crimes, and it creates a stereotype for them. If officers are seeing a certain type of person commit the most crimes, the next time they see someone similar, they can assume that person might also commit a crime, thus, racial profiling happens. Officers want to increase the amount of people they arrest and by profiling they are able to characterize people into a group of typical offenders (Racial Profiling: Definition, n.d, p. 3).
Racial profiling has been happening for centuries. The first known situations involving racial profiling were dated back to 1704 when slave patrols were frequent. Many black people of this time were slaves and had to have papers or permission to be in certain areas. When they didn’t have this permission, they were assumed to be runaways and they would endure physical and psychological interrogations. Their skin color made them subject to forceful interrogations and poor treatment from officers (Rushing, 2013).
Fast forward to today, where African American people are still subject to the assumption that they are dealing drugs or committing other crimes due to their skin color. When the “War on Drugs” took place in 1982, drug crimes declined and a lot of the focus for stopping drug use and sales were pointed toward lower income black neighborhoods. Since then, the amount of people in prison has increased exponentially, with black males being incarcerated at 7 times more likely than white males and black women three times as likely to be incarcerated over white women (Rushing, 2013). Human Rights Watch did a study in 2009 that revealed that black people were arrested at higher rates over white people, even though they commit the same amount of drug offenses.
Most of the racial profiling focuses on African Americans in the United States. However, since 9/11, Arab, Muslim, and South Asian descendants have been the targets for many racial profiling situations. Many Arab or Muslim people are singled out for “random screenings” in airports and other public places due to the attacks that we have experienced in the past. Latino people experience being pulled over or detained more frequently due to immigration enforcement and deportation issues (Rushing, 2013).
Our justice system has quite a few racial disparities that need to undergo changes for the future. The US Department of Justice projects that if the current trends continue, one in every 3 black males and one in every six Latino males born today will go to prison in his lifetime. The racial disparities are similar for women of these ethnic groups. (Justice for All, 2012)
Recently, there has been a news story about a in home health nurse visiting her patient during a home visit. A sheriff had responded to a call about a “suspicious person” entering a home. The nurse, Stephanie Dash, was a young black female, wearing scrubs, carrying a medical bag and a stethoscope. The nurse had given the officer her identification and the sheriff had denied returning the ID to the nurse. The sheriff that had arrived on the scene did not believe the nurse that she was allowed to be there, despite her patient confirmation and the nurse calling her company and having the sheriff hear it directly from her boss. Multiple squad cars arrived on the scene during this questioning and would not allow Stephanie to leave for at least 5 minutes. Due to this, Stephanie could not finish her visit with her patient and the rest of her visits for the day had been delayed as well (Georgiou, 2018). This situation is a prime example of profiling. Law enforcement has the right to investigate all calls they receive, especially those about a person going to various houses in a neighborhood. However, once valid reason and identification has been shown, there is no reason for an officer to continue to ask why someone is in a certain area. The officer in this situation has a right to ask the nurse who she is and why she is there but clearly she did not believe her. The nurse in this situation did everything right and did not deserve to be profiled in this way. The patient she was visiting missed out on treatment and this disrupted the entire day and the other patients. This situation must be investigated fully to determine the reason the officer treated the nurse this way.
Racial profiling and disparity are huge issues in the United States because this country is very diverse. Racial profiling affects everyone, even if it has not been directed toward a specific race or ethnic group that you are in. Profiling is damaging to those who experience it, not only because they may have not committed a crime, but also they have to undergo the treatment of someone who has committed a crime. Many people who have been profiled say they feel like the usual suspect of crime and have experienced psychological affects from this. These damages can impact the daily lives of those who have been profiled. The American Psychological Association has conducted research that shows the long term affect of being a victim of profiling can result in stress related disorders and race related threats (The Effects of Racial Profiling, n.d.).
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Racial profiling can impact society and how people in the community treat others and those specific groups of people of color. Many people who have experienced this have lasting affects in the community that they live in. A lot of times, especially with social media, there is only one side of the situation shown to the public. This means that the person who has been wrongfully profiled will likely not have an opportunity to explain to their fellow community members what happened and why they were suspected of committing a crime. Another result of these wrongful stops and searches can be that those affected will mistrust police and feel very frustrated in their authority (Yan, 2018).
Addressing racial profiling is an issue within itself. Racial profiling does not only happen within the judicial system. It happens everyday on the street, in the mall, or in the local Starbucks. Many policing agencies say that they do not racially profile because it is illegal according to the US Constitution. Racial profiling has resulted in many citizens having a fear of police and those in their community (Racial Profiling, n.d.). Racial profiling and bias is something that will be difficult to get rid of. All humans have a bias, whether they want to or not. Having a racial bias can play a part in how young people grow up and how they treat others in society.
Reducing a bias is one of the most important things a policing agency can apply to their incoming officers. Officers must be able to make the best decisions to protect themselves and those around them. While needing to protect themselves, officers must make decisions to get the real criminals off of the streets and keep the community safe. When officers have a bias and a stereotype in their mind, they might be going after the wrong people or putting themselves in a bad situation. The best way to decrease this bias is to make sure that officers are aware that a bias can influence their decisions (Keesee, 2015). Training officers at all levels of policing is important to help limit a bias that they have. The next thing that needs to happen is to repair the relationship between the police and the community. With social media playing such a large part in how people communicate, it is hard to understand the things that the officers experience and why they make the decisions they do. The implementation of community policing can help this relationship by laying out all of the needs for the citizens and the officers. If this model is used, people are able to put themselves in the position of the officer a little better. Along with training, an adjustment in policy and disciplinary actions would be beneficial in the policing agency. When there are officers who do not follow the policy and continue to show discrimination, they should be disciplined as such (Keesee, 2015).
There are many different situations where racial profiling has occurred. Racial profiling has continued for centuries and evolved over the years. While there are many officers who do not group people into stereotypes, there are some who do. The media focuses on these situations where racial profiling is apparent and results in citizen uproar. Many citizens have a difficult time trusting law enforcement and security guards due the experiences they have had personally or have witnessed through social media. It is important for the community to understand where the officers stand and what they must do to protect themselves and others. On the other side, it is the duty of the officer to make the best decisions without a racial bias involved in their decision. Training and awareness are the best was that the community can communicate with officers and everyone can get on the same standard. Racial profiling is something that affects everyone in the community in some way. Those who experience this and get accused of a doing something wrong due to their skin color have faced so many challenges. These experiences have lasting affects for those who have been wrongfully profiled. It is time for society to take control of these situations and for all members of the community to make a conscious effort to end racial profiling in all forms.
- Georgiou, A. (2018, December 10). A black nurse has accused a Tennessee sheriff’s deputy of racially profiling her. Retrieved from https://www.newsweek.com/black-nurse-interrogated-tennessee-cop-after-entering-white-womans-home-1251707
- Justice for All? Challenging Racial Disparities in the Criminal Justice System. (2012, February). Retrieved from https://www.americanbar.org/publications/human_rights_magazine_home/human_rights_vol37_2010/fall2010/justice_for_all_challenging_racial_disparities_criminal_justice_system/
- Keesee, T. L. (2015, July 2). Three Ways to Reduce Implicit Bias in Policing. Retrieved from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/three_ways_to_reduce_implicit_bias_in_policing
- Racial Profiling. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.aclu.org/issues/racial-justice/race-and-criminal-justice/racial-profiling
- Racial Profiling: Definition. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.aclu.org/other/racial-profiling-definition
- Rushing, K. (2013, May 01). Dissecting the Long, Deep Roots of Racial Profiling in America. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/keith-rushing/dissecting-racial-profiling_b_2740246.html
- The effects of racial profiling. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/paying-price-human-cost-racial-profiling/effects-racial-profiling
- Yan, H. (2018, May 11). This is why everyday racial profiling is so dangerous. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2018/05/11/us/everyday-racial-profiling-consequences-trnd/index.html
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