Having a vast and enormous land territory, the United States of America is known to have a diverse and sundry population. Touring the huge nation, anyone would be able to easily detect the diversity of races, cultures, languages, and traditions. Thus, with its enormous size, America has the capability of housing numerous groups and ethnicities, consequently opening the nation to several sociological issues like racial and ethnic discrimination. This issue has been known to take its place all over the United States ever since the first group of immigrants was sighted. Over the years, as more and more foreign immigrants from all over the world have been coming to the United States, racial discriminative acts against these people continued to rise, and historical accounts cannot hide the fact that one of the most aggravated groups was that of Black Americans.
Most historical accounts on immigrants and ethnic groups in America state that African-Americans have the highest number of racial and ethnic discrimination cases done by Native Whites or White Americans. Apparently, this issue has been treated as a common experience by Black Americans. There have been movements and campaigns to stop such prejudicial acts to create an American society wherein color and ethnicity would not be a basis of societal status, and wherein harmony among all citizens of America can be considered as a possible thing to happen. Positively, campaigns, protests, and mass movements against racial discrimination have reduced the cases of aggressive racial acts; however, it cannot still be denied that racial prejudice will always take place in the U.S., although unspoken and not manifested through acts. One proof that racial discrimination still exists in the air of America is the prevalence of racial profiling.
What is racial profiling?
People nowadays are accustomed to the terms racial prejudice” and “discrimination.” These issues, which were rampant during the earlier days of the United States, have led people to believe that color and race will always matter in the U.S. Color and race have always been causes of rivalry, opposition, and enmity, not just between powerful people but also among simple citizens. Racial profiling is one example of the broader concept of racial discrimination. This concept is more likely to be observed within the criminal justice system. It can be explained as an act that stereotypes a certain group of people as engaging in a specific kind of crime. For example, a Black man on the streets of New York was caught by a White police officer for an alleged traffic violation. An act can be considered as racial profiling when the police officer has been watching out for Black drivers, believing that these people are more likely to commit traffic violations and criminal activity (Ethnic Majority, 2008). This situation is not as hypothetical as it sounds. A lot of similar cases have been reported all over the United States, which point to one specific group as victims of such a racially discriminatory act: African-American men. As much as the people of America want equality within their criminal justice system, the rampant acts of racial profiling will always get in the way and create a barrier for peace and equality among black and white Americans.
Racial profiling against African American men.
There have been great efforts aimed at eradicating the growing gap between white and black Americans. Even children, at the youngest ages in school, have experienced the harshness of racial discrimination. This debunks what these children have been taught to recite in school as the “Pledge of Allegiance,” which ends with the words “with liberty and justice for all” (Kops, 2006, n.p.). Law professors argue that equality, which every American seems to be crying out loud for, will only happen when every citizen of America who commits the same crime has an equal chance of getting caught, without their gender, social status, or race being considered. Unfortunately, this does not always happen. As Bob Herbert (1999) wrote in the Opinion pages of the New York Times, he recalled an incident when a black American committed a crime and the New York Police went after every black man walking the New York streets. The incident got worse to the point that cops even visited every school and college asking for the list of enrolled black students and went after them as well. Another case involves a white woman who complained about a black man who allegedly robbed her and was able to flee after cutting himself with his own knife while struggling. The scent of the suspect’s blood was the track which the canine units of the cops followed. It led to a campus where the cops had to enter and search for the alleged criminal. However, they failed. Thus, they wandered along the streets of Oneonta where every resident, black residents in particular, would be asked to stop and be searched for a hand injury to qualify as a suspect. Looking at and analyzing these incidents, it appears that the police just had to follow instructions. However, the frustrating and disappointing part about these cases is that people who are born black unfortunately qualify as a possible suspect not because of their backgrounds, religion, nor economic status, but because of their race. As Herbert (1999) put it in his article, “If you’re black, you’re a suspect” (n.d.).
Every day, more and more similar cases are taking place in the streets of America, humiliating and degrading an increasing number of minorities, especially black Americans. Aside from this, more and more innocent minds are being opened to the idea that racism can forever influence the criminal justice system of America. Having heard so many reports on racial profiling acts by the police, people may continue to wonder about the roots of this discriminatory act. In understanding racial profiling, it would be helpful to first understand the association between public policy and stereotypical profiling. In racial profiling acts done by American police officers, what happens is that police create a stereotype against black Americans once a single black American commits a crime. Stereotyping is inevitable even in all other kinds of cases and not just about racial profiling. People always think of celebrities as having lavish lifestyles because that has been the most popular characteristic people have observed about celebrities, and this is another way of stereotyping. Stereotypical identification of black Americans is observed to be very common through the language choices of the contemporary media. Words such as “black drug abuser,” “black drug dealer,” “black robber,” “black rapist” and other stereotypical and discriminatory words contribute to the creation of a profile stereotype (Muharrar, 1998, n.d.). However, whether it is a black person or a white person, color and race must never be used to generalize the act done by the individual to the group to which they belong.
Whether or not racial profiling appears effective in combating common crimes such as drug dealing and common traffic violations, people in the U.S. would have to admit that it has caused considerable humiliation and degradation among African Americans. There have been incidents where white Americans would never be considered suspects for a specific crime, only black people. These acts of racial profiling against minorities have made the streets and roads of America discriminatory places for black Americans for many years.
Roots of Racial Profiling
Unmotivated searches, warrants with indefinite bases, and stereotypical oversimplification of minorities have been putting the issue of racism in America in a worse situation every day. It gives people the impression that racism is indeed a very serious issue that the United States has been going through for a long period of time already. With this, people may be thinking of the possible explanations for why such a phenomenon is happening and where it possibly originated. History may tell us that the clear basis of racial profiling against black Americans comes from institutional racism. Since time immemorial, white Americans have had this gap from black immigrants from Africa because of some territorial and racial conflicts. It has gone on over the years, and the act of favoring a white American over a black American under the criminal justice system today can very much be connected to how the race of white Americans and black Americans dealt with each other before. This explanation can definitely provide a basis; however, there are still lots of intangible and unspoken sources of racial profiling today. Some cases still remain unexplained to the public.
Whether it’s about crime, welfare, drug abuse, or anything else, the prevalence of racial profiling is undeniably coincidental with race (Muharrar, 2009). Police officers may continually reason out the due process and implemented rules as the basis of racial profiling incidents, but the humiliation that is led not just by the individual but as well as the race in its entirety incontestably relates to discriminative purposes. After all the efforts to eliminate the long-living issue of racism in America, people would still have to admit that there will always be issues, conflicts, and frictions that will be associated with the enmity between the white and black races. Psychology explains that simple stereotyping can oftentimes be inevitable to commit, but racial profiling differs way a lot from simple stereotyping, for racial profiling can have disguised purposes and objectives as to stigmatize, harass, criminalize, or discriminate unlike plain stereotyping (Banks, 2004). It can vary in forms, levels, and intensity and can further lead to violence and aggressive treatments. This is the reason why racial profiling has also been considered as a form of police corruption. The countless cases of violence and harassment which rooted from racial profiling by the police have caught the attention of lawmakers and pushed the idea of making such apprehensive acts as part of the illegal acts of police corruption. Having considered all of the aforementioned facts and ideas, it may appear understandable why some African-American males find it hard and rather unpleasant to walk along the streets of Native-American dominated cities. This is because of the fear and doubt of experiencing another humiliating and even brutal act of racial profiling. Racism may indeed be not that easy to eradicate, especially when it has already formed part of history. However, considering all the possible effects of this discriminative act, people may get the chance to think through the possibility of finally helping fight racism in the United States.
Effects of Racial Profiling.
Across the nation, racial profiling has been discussed, studied, and debated by different institutions and advocates as one of the modern forms of racial prejudice and a growing civil rights issue. Thus, the government and numerous activist groups have been finding ways on how to promote a racism-free America due to the effects and influence such discriminatory acts can have on the people, especially on the next generations of Americans.
One of the most frightening effects of racial profiling, which is freely shown through free television channels in unregulated means, is its impact on young audiences. Considering that racial profiling is already a popular topic in TV news, TV series, and even TV ads, society is beginning to worry about the negative impression this issue is creating in the minds of children (Muharrar, 1998). Children, who have less radical minds, tend to absorb what they see as right and proper. Thus, being able to see such racially discriminative acts may directly affect how they treat other children in school. Furthermore, they may even carry such a negative attitude as they grow up and deal with more and more people of different ethnicities and cultures.
Aside from these, racial profiling also causes several effects on the attitudes of Americans in general. Intense exposure to this kind of racial prejudice can make individuals less likely to cooperate with people they do not know or trust, and they may already have questions about aspects of the criminal justice system. People may also tend to be more repulsed by law enforcement because they fear being harassed and humiliated. Additionally, law enforcement officers may easily believe the idea that minorities tend to commit more serious crimes than Native Americans, and they may respond aggressively to such situations because of this belief. Because hostile environments are inevitable with racism around, community members tend to worry more about safety concerns to protect themselves and their families from possible harm. Lastly, society shall remain lenient about the issue while mistrust and suspicion about the criminal justice system can further lead to riots and violence, which will definitely create turmoil in American daily living (Lamberth Consulting, n.d.).
It may be hard for people to clearly identify where the general occurrence of racial discrimination in the United States really originated. Despite all the struggles against racism, it is still hard for citizens to explain why there are still cases of racial profiling and other humiliating and prejudicial acts against African-Americans that occur. However, considering the vast and huge land mass territory that the United States has, it may also appear explicable that it will also have a very diverse and varied number of immigrants. Considering this, the United States will indeed be made up of different colors, cultures, languages, religions, and heritages which citizens would have to respect and accept in order to maintain a peaceful and discrimination-free society. Racial profiling will not be easy to solve and completely eradicate, but what people can still do is to understand the issue and understand they will only be a step closer to the long-hoped equality of liberty among all Americans by not making race, color, and ethnicity as bases of judgment and oversimplification, may it be in law enforcement or in simple everyday interactions.
Anderson, W. & Callahan, G. (2001, August-September). The Roots of Racial Profiling: Why are Police Targeting Minorities for Traffic Stops. Reason Online. Retrieved January 15, 2009 from http://www.reason.com/news/show/28138.html
Banks, Cyndi (2004) Criminal Justice Ethics: Theory and Practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Ethnic Majority: Racial Profiling of African, Hispanic (Latino), and Asian Americans (2008, October 17). Retrieved January 15, 2009 from http://www.ethnicmajority.com/racial_profiling.htm.
Herbert, B. (1999, November 4) wrote an article titled Breathing While Black” in The New York Times. The article can be retrieved from http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/45/316.html.
Kops, D. (2006). Racial Profiling. NY: Marshall Cavendish Benchmark.
Lamberth Consulting (n.d.) discusses the effect of racial profiling on our nation on their website, LamberthConsulting.com. The article can be retrieved from http://www.lamberthconsulting.com/about-racial-profiling/racial-profiling-effect-on-nation.asp, accessed on January 15, 2009.
Muharrar, M. (1998, September/October) wrote an article titled Media Blackface: Racial Profiling in News Reporting” for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). The article can be retrieved from http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=1431 and was accessed on January 15, 2009.