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What is the role of prejudice in social conflicts based on the ethnic and racial background in the USA? This question is discussed by a lot of researchers according to a variety of social aspects such as the relations of majority and minority groups, the rate of crimes according to the racial characteristic, the attitude of police officers toward the representatives of the ethnical minorities, and the conflicts of police officers with the members of the minority groups based on the ethnicity question. Many people agree that the problem of the conflicts between police officers and people of different races and ethnicities are exaggerated, but the number of evidences on the extreme cases of violence expressed by police officers toward the representatives of the minority groups and different races is presented in the mass media regularly makes people pay much attention to the question. Although a lot of declared cases are the results of mild misunderstandings between police officers and various racial groups, the issue can be discussed with references to the problem of prejudice and group superiority. The possible conflicts between police officers and minority groups are often the results of misconceptions and misunderstandings based on stereotypes and prejudice.
It is possible to accentuate the fact that the representatives of different races are inclined to express different reactions in the situation of their communication with police officers regarding the police officers’ behavior. In this case, the intolerant police officers’ behavior can be influenced by the definite cultural perception of different racial groups and even by the racial animosity (Parks & Mastrofski, 2008).
Prejudice as a Factor of Conflict
What is the real cause of many problematic situations in which police officers and the representatives of minority groups and different races are involved? In spite of the fact a lot of controversial cases are the result of general indiscipline and ignorance of the police officers, racial animosity often results in conflicts (Rowe, 2007). For instance, the contemporary statistics data of the relevant cases in which the ‘black’ criminals are the main heroes of the crime rate in New Jersey are significant, and the numbers can influence the perception of the public according to ‘blacks’ as more criminally oriented persons than the representatives of the ‘white’ population of the region. This situation diverts attention from the real cause of the incidents (Parks & Mastrofski, 2008). This fact can also explain the results of the study related to the suspect stops in Indianapolis and St. Petersburg with references to the racial differences of drivers. The rate of stop-and-search operations for white citizens can be discussed as lower.
Evidence Strength in Suspect Stops. (Parks & Mastrofski, 2008).
|Number suspect |
|Avg. evidence |
|white suspect |
|white suspect |
|black suspect |
|black suspect |
It is the general opinion that the ‘white’ majority feels its superiority over the other races and ethnic groups, and this fact is often discussed as relevant for the situation of relations between white police officers and representatives of minority groups. Thus, the actions of police officers are often perceived as attempts to prevent these people from achieving a status that is equal to that of the majority white population (Rowe, 2007). However, this factor arises when officers arrest a member of either the majority or the minority population. In both cases, the affected group feels that the secure group takes advantage of their affliction. Nevertheless, the members of the racial minority complain of partiality of police operations more than the ‘white’ people. The ‘blacks’ consider their status threatened if a white police officer confronts a member of their group. They can think that the officer is superior and intends to undermine their efforts of fighting for equity. Since the minority group understands that the predominant population intends to maintain the status quo, they have little faith in the security forces.
Ignorance and Indiscipline in the Police Force
Ignorance and indiscipline on the part of the police can play an important role in influencing the officials to take an interest in members of minority groups. They mostly do this under the pretext of fighting crime. However, when police officers are professionals, they should not use discriminatory techniques, maintaining law and order. Instead, they should do investigations and arrest criminals irrespective of their ethical and racial backgrounds (Weitzer & Tuch, 2009). When the officers refrain from guesswork, only law-breakers will be accountable for their misconduct. This will help society understand the role of police much better and reduce conflicts.
However, police officers are not to be blamed for all the ethnic-related crises. For example, when a traffic police officer on duty inspects more vehicles driven by African-Americans than those ones driven by ‘white’ Americans, this does not mean this person is a racist. It is possible that a white police officer may consider a black as a “suspicious character” due to some stereotypes. When police officials use their data to determine crime patterns, individuals may believe that they are inclined to discriminate against some racial groups. Nevertheless, the number of statistical findings indicates that a higher percentage of criminal cases involve members of minority groups.
Parks, R., & Mastrofski, S. (2008). Police racial profiling in two American cities: Some evidence on stop and searches. U.S. Department of Justice, 31(6), 1-32.
Rowe, M. (2007). Policing diversity. Police Quarterly, 5(4), 5-25.
Weitzer, R., & Tuch, S. (2009). Race and perceptions of police misconduct. Society for the Study of Social Problems, 51(3), 3-21.