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Racial Profiling Is a Form of Discrimination

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Racial Profiling Is a Form of Discrimination

Racial Profiling

Stephanie Warren

Park University

Social Psychology

PS 301

Professor Orbie L. Stewart

July 11, 2014



           Racial profiling is a form of discrimination by which law enforcement uses a person’s race or cultural background as the primary reason to suspect that the individual has broken the law.  Many believe that racial profiling became a problem in the 1980’s; however the problem dates back to at least the 1700’s for people of African descent in the United States.  There are many individuals that believe the practice of racial profiling is wrong, while others will claim that it is necessary in order to apprehend suspects of drug offenses or any other criminal charges.  The unforeseen practice of racial profiling has the ability to influence prejudice and stereotyping of individuals.  There are many different conflicts associated with racial profiling by law enforcement agents but the main problem remains- the use of racial profiling causes stereotypical endeavors and it isn’t an intelligent means of studying criminals.  The most common targeted of racial profiling are individuals of African American descent, along with Hispanics and Muslims.  While these groups of individuals may feel they are being subjected to racism, law enforcement stand to believe it is a simple act of private security.  Racial profiling groups a specific race as one, if there is a common misdemeanor conducted by a few, the group as a whole is assumed guilty.  Racial profiling derives from a form of stereotyping.  Stereotyping is a standardized and simplified speculation or image created with a particular meaning and held in common by members within a group.  In other words, a person is judged by the description of others and not by their actual character.  Opinions of this issue are frequently spoken, but the main question persists.  Should race be used as a factor of protection, or is it an absurd action of racism/discrimination?[pic 1]

Historical Background of Racial Profiling

     It is difficult to trace the history of racial profiling but the principle of targeting those based on race and/or ethnicity existed well before, during and after slavery here in the United States.  American History details that profiling based on race was prevalent during slavery, but as the slavery era ended, different forms of racial profiling continued in the United States.  During the immigration era, when thousands of immigrants came to the United States seeking to find a better way of life, some were isolated and labeled for different reasons.  Those from southern and eastern Europe were considered less able to assimilate, and their race and ethnicity were considered strong predictors or indicators of predispositions relevant to criminal behavior (Carmen, 2009, p. 666).  Other immigrants were labeled as unhealthy due to the fact that their native country were stricken with diseases and famine and thought to be rampant.  During the time of the Jim Crow era, the Italian physician and criminologist Cesare Lombroso (1835-1909) began to identify patterns of criminality based on the physical appearances of individuals.  Lombroso influenced the academic stance on physical appearance being associated with behavior; in this case, criminality (Carmen, 2009, p. 666).

The Drug Courier Profiles were developed by the Drug Enforcement Administration in the 1980’s, the public policy has been used to profile individuals based off of their appearance through this policy.  Through the “Say No to Drugs” campaign, the Drug Enforcement Administration found it necessary to include race and ethnicity as components of profiles used to apprehend drug dealers and traffickers.  Since the implantation of “The Drug Courier Profiles,” ordinary citizens, have claimed to be racially profiled by law enforcement while driving, often referred to as “driving while Black.”

Historically there have been many people and organizations that have stood up against racial profiling despite the fact that so little progress has been made.  In 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified which states that “No State shall…deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws,” which would have made racial profiling illegal; however it did not stop the practice, it just encouraged the police to be more discreet with their racist actions (Chatellier, n.d.).

The terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001 gave a tremendous prominence to racial profiling.  After the attacks took place, many argued that racial profiling would not be an issue because the United States would focus on other issues; however many civil rights based lawsuits that were connected to racial profiling were filed more during this time period.  Individuals were being targeted not only because of their race and ethnicity, but because of their religion.  The federal government currently has programs in place at major airports that profile individuals based on their race and ethnicity; in contrast, local officials, for the most part have declined to participate in similar practices citing constitutional rights that would be violated (Carmen, 2009).

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