Racial profiling is any police-initiated act that is based on race, ethnicity, and country of origin rather than the behavior of the person. It also entails information that leads the police to the seizure of individuals who plan to engage in criminal activities. It is racially-biased monitoring that occurs when law enforcement agencies consider the ethnic background of a person to determine how to put the law into effect. Profiling can take different dimensions, such as police stops, questions, arrests, and/or searches. From a broader perspective, it includes a routine exercise and suspicion that eventually leads to an act of discrimination. This paper provides an insight into racial profiling in America using the conflict sociological perspective.
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Levels of Racial Profiling in America
The police profile individuals to apprehend citizens who commit crimes such as drug trafficking and possession of illegal firearms, among others. The occurrence of racial profiling involving the police usually hinges on some assumptions. At the outset, there is a straight correspondence to habits of committing particular crimes besides being a member of a specific race (Shelby 145). The White police in the US have been accused of profiling the African-Americans. The primary reason for such behavior lies in the assumption that Blacks are more likely to commit crimes than their White counterparts.
Testing the Legitimacy of Racial Profiling
Heated debates have ensued in an attempt to gauge the legitimacy of profiling. The proponents of the practice have put forward issues that are addressed by racial profiling. The practice deters crime as the suspected group remains in constant and regular checks by the police. Shelby reveals that the effects of such events have been seen in the reduced number of crimes that have improved the quality of life in the US (146). Again, the process of profiling is democratic since there is a weighing of the interests involved, which balance the tilts to favor particular races (Lippert‐Rasmussen 192). Racial profiling is justifiable on legitimate grounds that are needed to control crimes. Lippert‐Rasmussen further attests that it is wrong to ignore the law of probability (193). Breaking of the law is preventable through fast judgment. This objective is achieved by profiling the victims.
The opponents hold that racial profiling causes resentments, hurt, and loss of trust among groups subjected to increased police attention. This state of affairs arises from suspicions generated among the profiled groups. It further leads to a conspiracy that instigates counter-attacks against the police. In an attempt to fight inequality resulting from the practice, crime proves the best solution to revenge. In the US, the Whites have discriminated against the Blacks, giving them the tag of criminals. In fighting the criminality tag, counter-attacks were used. This turn of events cannot auger well with the security apparatus that the police seek to heighten.
Lever holds that profiling is an indisputable act of discrimination and injustice (95). Indeed, the American Civil Liberties Union reveals that profiling alienates the communities from undertaking law enforcement measures. This step hinders community-policing efforts (Ayres and Borowsky, 6). Subsequently, the law enforcers and agents in place lack the credibility and trust people to guard and serve the law. Profiling makes the community live in fear; hence, they fail to exploit their potentials to perform their roles as Americans.
Historical Evidence of Racial Profiling in America
In America, Black people have been subjected to profiling based on their skin tone. At the outset, they faced 240 years of slavery and 90 more of legal segregation. This scenario can still be seen today in traffic and pedestrian stops (Ayres and Borowsky 8). The rights of a profiled person are violated. The ACLU further reveals that discrimination that is based on individual aspects such as color, ethnicity, and race, among others, is a violation of human rights (9).
It has been documented that border police use racial profiling as a tool for security enforcement among immigrants. This kind of institutional alienation brings about lop-sided surveillance, misuse of status, and instigation of violence amongst the victimized citizens. For instance, Reitzel and Piquero reveal that most Whites are subjected to unjustified traffic investigations and increased racial discrimination at the Unites States airports (162).
There are also unnecessary stops and frisking, especially in traffic, to find out whether the minorities are participating in the crime. In 2011, a record of approximately 684,330 civilians who were stopped for checkups, 87 percent of comprised were the Blacks (Reitzel and Piquero 162). According to the Centre for Constitutional Rights, this data underpinned previous studies that showed that race was the primary factor for discrimination. Maximum stops happen in Black and Latino localities. Also, the stop and frisk data show that police officers use excessive force during the stops of Blacks and Latinos. Increased suspicion of a suspected group of people is also evident in US airports. In New York, profiling of people is very intense to the extent that it has become a routine (Cleary 24).
In some cases, school-going children are subjected to racial and religious profiling. Frequent interrogations and searches based on skin color have become a part of the system. Many travelers of the Muslim community or the Middle East are subjected to profiling in airports. The profiling of such nature focuses on the religious backgrounds of the people. The move is to curb terrorist threats posed by groups such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda in the United States. Terrorism is a serious issue in the US; hence, defending the occurrence of attacks is mandatory. In an attempt to achieve this objective, the administration of the US supports racial profiling (Cleary 23).
The government came up with anti-profiling laws but excluded the transportation security department. This situation is an indication that profiling based on race and religion will continue. The laws followed the public outcry regarding racial abuse and community interactions with the police. They were targeted to ensure fairness and equity to all.
Racial profiling has taken a legal stand in America. The current government has refused to rule out profiling at entry points and during transit. First, the practice is justified where small groups are targeted to secure millions of people and property. On the other hand, the pain and mistrust caused to the people are phenomenal. Accumulated suspicion has impaired the co-operation of the community with the police as they lack trust in the security system that profiles them. Measures to maintain security should be heightened whilst redressing the historical injustices to the victims of racial and religious profiling in America. In so doing, such people will regain trust and support the security mechanisms in place.
Ayres, Ian and Jonathan Borowsky. A Study of Racially Disparate Outcomes in the Los Angeles Police Department, 2008. Web.
Cleary, Jim. Racial Profiling Studies in Law Enforcement: Issues and Methodology, 2000. Web.
Lever, Annabelle. “Why racial profiling is hard to justify: A response to Risse and Zeckhauser.” Philosophy & Public Affairs 33.1(2005): 94-110. Print.
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Lippert‐Rasmussen, Kasper. “Racial profiling versus community.” Journal of Applied Philosophy 23.2(2006): 191-205. Print.
Reitzel, John and Alex Piquero. “Does it exist? Studying citizens’ attitudes of racial profiling.” Police Quarterly 9.2(2006): 161-183. Print.
Shelby, Tommie. “Racial Realities and Corrective Justice: A Reply to Charles Mills.” Critical Philosophy of Race 1.2(2013): 145-162. Print.