Racial profiling refers to the discriminatory practice by law enforcement officials of targeting individuals for suspicion of crime based on the individual's race, ethnicity, religion or national origin according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Unfortunately, there are people every day who experience racial profiling.
“A Black Muslim client was accused of being a terrorist just because he’s Muslim, Southeast Asian clients have been questioned at airports or by police as if being Southeast Asian meant they had connections to terrorism, Chinese restaurant owners who have been targeted by the police because the police assume all Chinese restaurants harbor drug dealers...the list goes on and on,” according to Mary Catherine Roper, Deputy Legal Director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania.
“I have Black and Latino clients who have been stopped by police for no reason, a Latino client who was investigated by ICE even though he had his Social Security card and driver's license with him. And those are just my clients – you hear on the news of Black people being denied bank loans because they are assumed to be a bad credit risk. It is everywhere.”
Racial profiling is a major issue because some police officers aren't treating everyone equally, some laws are harmful, and racial profiling affects people based on their race and religion.
Blacks Arrested at Disproportionate Rates
According to the Criminal Justice Fact Sheet by the NAACP, “African Americans represent 12.5% of illicit drug users, but 29% of those arrested for drug offenses and 33% of those incarcerated in state facilities for drug offenses.”
Although blacks make up approximately 13% of the U.S. population according to 2010 Census Bureau, they are arrested and put in jail in record numbers.
The ACLU corroborates the NAACP report. The War on Marijuana in Black and White by the ACLU states, “A black person is 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white. Even though Blacks and whites use marijuana at the same rate.”
Something should be done about this injustice so that all people are treated fairly.
“People are still being discriminated because of their race,” sighs Marshall, a seventh grade student at Lea, “This should have been stopped a long time ago.”
Too many lives are being thrown away because the system looks at people of color unjustly. Everyone should be able to have freedom and enjoy life. Instead, blacks are arrested at disproportional rates.
Racial Profiling Affects People Due to their Race & Religion
Racial profiling can affect both communities of color and religious groups, but it often called something else.
“Racial profiling persists because it can be disguised as so many other things: securing our borders, fighting terrorism, or ensuring public safety,” Roper said.
It's unfair that Muslims are detained because of their culture belief. No one should not be held just because of their religion or culture.
“Until we all – whether or not we work in law enforcement, whether or not we suffer from stereotypes ourselves – give up on stereotypes and insist that everyone is treated as an individual and judged for what they do and not how they look, there will be racial profiling,” Roper acknowledges.
Racial Profiling Laws are Inconsistent
Individually, people can recognize their stereotypes or internal prejudices in order to reduce racial profiling. Yet, self reflection alone is not enough. Laws should also be changed.
In Born Suspect the NAACP reports, “20 state laws do not explicitly prohibit racial profiling, 30 state laws have some form of racial profiling laws on the books, and no state meet all of NAACP criteria of an effective racial profiling law.”
There shouldn’t be racial profiling laws in some states and not in others. All over the U.S. each state is supposed to make sure that all is residents are being treated equally and feel safe.
“Racial profiling is illegal everywhere because it violates the Constitution and civil rights laws,” Roper explains. “The reason it is so hard to change is that the people doing the racial profiling know it is illegal to make distinctions based on race, so they give a different reason for what they are doing.”
Even though people still find ways around racial profiling laws, and they are still solutions on ending racial profiling.
“The thing that is most important, in my view, to ending racial profiling is to require police and other agencies that are making decisions based on race to keep data on their actions and have an independent person review that data to see whether there are patterns of treating people of different races differently,” Roper says.
The purpose of laws is so that people can be safe, our country can be organized, and we can limit dangerous acts. However, if laws are used unfairly, than it could lead to mistrust between communities of color and law enforcement. After all, something should be done about these discriminatory laws because everyone should be treated equally.
To conclude this issue, racial profiling is a major issue that affects our future. Although some think that racism was over decades ago, in reality is not. The future children that will come after us, will experience injustice unless we work to improve our communities.
Sydney, a student at Lea, said it best. “Everybody should just see each other as humans.”
Please Note: The author used pseudonyms for the students interviewed for this article.