Racial Profiling by Police
The History of Racial Profiling
Racial profiling, according to Jennifer Bellany, is defined as a practice of the law enforcement by using such personal features/characteristics as race, ethnicity, and nationality in making the decision whether to stop, search, or investigate a person for supposed outlaw activity. Jim Cleary, in his turn, defines racial profiling as an event, which occurs whenever police officers routinely use race and other factors such as age, nationality, or ethnicity as factors, which allow officer to make a certain decision: to suspect a person and take a needed action or let this person go. However, at the same time, Cleary states that there is still no unambiguous definition of racial profiling, which, according to his words, in many cases has common features with racial discrimination.
It may seem to be quite extraordinary and, in some way, unbelievable, but even today, racial profiling among the American police still exists. It is despite the fact the current President of the USA is African-American, and adoption of many laws as well as the amendments to them protecting the rights of different ethnical minorities. Moreover, according to Carmen Alejandro, racial profiling plays one of the key roles in adjudicating the penalty for a certain crime. Racial and ethnical characteristics are frequently used as factors, which affect the decision of the court about the participation of the suspect in the crime. It was quite shocking that in the XIX century, the slavery of African-Americans used to be a normal practice, and the representatives of this racial group were brutally called using N-word to identify them, which greatly abuses and humiliates persons honor and dignity. However, the fact that racial discrimination continues to occur today is even more shocking. Alejandro is quite clear about that by showing the facts of the American history when African-Americans had a right to travel via railway only in special wagons for Blacks, which certainly made them feel like cattle, which was transported in special wagons without people. In the same way, before the Jim Crow era, in 1890-s, African-American people were considered to be almost equal to cattle and supposed to deserve to live in similar conditions to the ones in which cows, horses, and dogs live. The next shameful historical fact in the American history was the Immigration Act of 1875, which humiliated the representatives of all ethnicities and races except the white one in a considerably brutal and abusing way. For instance, this act minimized the chances of Japanese and Chinese people to enter America due to a totally delirious illusion of that time that the individuals of these nationalities could be only prostitutes or criminals, and so they did not deserve to live in the USA. Moreover, this truly unreasonable act prohibited the natives of some European countries to enter the territory of the United States due to some senseless stereotype of the past that all representatives of a certain ethnicity were the bearers of dangerous infections, which were rampant in their countries of origin. In addition, the duty of all border control services of the USA of that time was to mark all immigrants with special letters right on their foreheads, which indicated whether marked person was healthy and/or had a right to settle in the US. Such humiliating procedure labeled many people with unpleasant and especially offensive characteristics, which in more than 90 per cent of the cases were absolutely groundless. It obviously humiliated the dignity of the individuals as well as totally destroyed the trust of many newcomers towards the American dream and American freedom, which they hoped to get so much searching for a better life in the USA. Except the public policy and official laws of the country, Carmen Alejandro remembers one more terrible fact: the academic community of the USA practiced the theory created by a renowned criminologist and physician of Italian origin of the Jim Crow era named Cesare Lombroso (1835-1909), which stated that the patterns of criminality and likeliness to commit a crime by a certain person can be identified based on his/her physical appearance and characteristics. With time, this theory was proved to be nonsense, but one can only guess how many people suffered from it being absolutely innocent. It is a considerably shameful page of the American history, but it is still a historical fact, which cannot be in any way ignored or eliminated from the history of the country. It shows that people must always look into the past in order not to repeat the wrong deeds and mistakes of their forefathers in future and establish a truly progressive and democratic society tomorrow.
Today, the problem of racial profiling is mainly caused due to certain aspects of historical background of the USA of the last centuries (XIX and XX), racial prejudice of past, and stereotyping, which is natural on the one hand, but on the other hand, provokes many negative trends such as the one discussed in this paper. In addition, the statistical data gathered from the articles clearly shows that the problem of racial profiling is especially topical today and needs to be solved as soon as possible.
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Police and Racial Profiling Today
As it was already mentioned above, the law of the United States changed a lot since the XIX century, especially in the field of the racial and ethnical communities treatment and laws protecting their rights. Jennifer Bellany in her article is quite clear about such changes. For example many things which used to a common practice only 50 years ago such as capturing high school students right during the lunch and interrogating them by police about mob affiliations only due to their Latin origin. Nowadays, it seems to be a kind of reality from the far totalitarian state somewhere in Africa of Asia, but not in the democratic and free USA. However, only a couple decades ago, it was absolutely usual and ordinary. Moreover, everyone heard about the separate cinemas, seats in public transport, and schools for African-Americans, who were not allowed to take a seat in the places meant for white people. The legendary activity of a Protestant priest of the African-American origin Martin Luther King, who is widely known in all the corners of the globe, made a great step towards the elimination of the racial prejudice in the USA. Unfortunately, it was not enough to defeat racial profiling, and current events are the bright example of this sad reality. For example, Georgeanne M. Usova and Joanne Lin in their article Three Faces of Racial Profiling: Immigrants are the Latest Victims describe really shocking case, which happened in Alabama state, where truly draconic racial profiling law was adopted by the Federal Court in the city of Birnimgham. Using the example of local farmers household, which is at the brink of irrevocable collapse due to that law, they quite clearly showed the outcomes of legalized racial profiling. The article tells that one day, the number of hired workers at a farm owned by Brian Cash decreased from 64 to only 11 people in only one night. It happened due to miserable conditions of life, from which Brians employees started to suffer after the adoption of that law. Since the lions share of the workforce was constituted by Latinos, this law directly affected their dignity and honor. The effect of the law was so great that people started fleeing from Alabama taking their children from schools and even abandoning their houses, to build which they worked very hard for decades. According to that law, the police officers are required to check the immigration status of all people who are suspected to be in the state without official permission. The fact that this law touches even those people of Latino origin who live in the state absolutely legally is even more awful. It also affects their children who were born in Alabama by singling them out at their schools (including even the elementary school children) and giving them information about the law, which is officially called H.B. 56. Such process humiliated and offended not only children who were perceived by the majority of their classmates almost as aliens and worse-than-the-others but also their parents who could not understand why they, law-abiding citizens and their children, who were actually born in that state, deserve such an offensive and mocking treatment by the local authorities. One more negative example of racial profiling is presented in the survey conducted by Charles Crawford and Jack Glaser. The survey offers a lot of detailed information about the police-initiated stops and searches of drivers of different races. This research was chosen as the secondary source of the paper on purpose since the police-initiated stops are one of the most frequent and widespread routine activities performed by police officers daily in all the United States. Therefore, this research gives optimal statistical data on the issue of racial profiling in all the states of the USA. Thus, in their research, authors, who are university professors (Crawford works at Western Michigan University, and Glaser works at University of California, Goldman School of Public Policy), mention that in the majority of the cases, police officers were driven by simple stereotypes, which are quite natural for any human being, and the reasons of racial disparities in those stops were mere cognitive biases. It means that in the USA, there is a strong and quite popular stereotype that African-American individuals are prone to criminality much more than white ones. The authors claim that it is a human nature to make up stereotypes that affect our behaviors, perception of people, as well as estimation of the situation. Thus, it would be unwise to forget that police officers are the same human beings as we are; they are not some kind of supernatural people who have some far better developed feelings and perception. Certainly, some individuals may claim that stereotypes are the views of small-minded, but this is not so: as it was already mentioned, stereotyping is quite natural and typical for the majority of people. One can even say that such statement is also a kind of stereotype in some way. Due to stereotypes, which are actually the main reason of the racial profiling existence, the judges and jury during the court process are more likely to find guilty African-American defendant rather than a white one. It is explained by the fact that African-Americans are often associated with weapons and aggression as well as dangerous ghettos known for the prosperity of the drug traffic and street gangs in their streets. Besides the facts described above, Crawford and Glaser also mention that in the areas with lower income, there are much more crimes committed. Actually, it is not a secret: the lower the average income in a certain district or a neighborhood is, the more criminal it is. It is known that the African-American districts are usually much less successful and the majority of its residents experience poor living conditions comparing to the residents of predominantly white districts. Thus, such factors only strengthen the stereotypes about African- and Asian-Americans even more.
One of the most shocking and terrible tragedy of modern time happened in the city of Fergusson, state of Missouri, when the African-American teenager, 18-year old Michael Brown, was murdered by a white police officer. It could not be missed in the paper since this is a bright example of how terrible the outcomes of racial profiling can be. In the article Michael Brown's Death Was Shocking. So Are the Racial Profiling Stats We've Been Ignoring,Jason Zenglere shows really shocking statistics: in the last 14 years, the probability that the stopped African-American driver will be pulled over and searched increased dramatically. The Vehicle Stop Report for Fergusson, which is the suburb of St. Louis, Missouri, where the tragedy of Michael Brown happened, shows terrible statistics: 86 per cent of all drivers stopped and searched were African-Americans, despite the fact that they make up 67 per cent of the entire population of the city. In contrast, white drivers were stopped only in 13 per cent of all the cases in the area, while the white population of Fergusson is only 29 per cent of the entire number of residents. Moreover, the recent survey of the arrests reveals even worse statistical data: 93 per cent of all drivers arrested were African-Americans, while the white drivers arrested make up only 7 per cent respectively. The awfulness of this data is that such negative trend is evident in the city, where African-Americans are the majority of the population. Thus, one can imagine how difficult the life conditions of African-Americans as well as people of other races constituting the minority of the population comparing to the white people are. The data about drug arrests is almost the same. Ian Urbina shows that in the last several years, African-Americans were four times more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana than representatives of the white population. The data presented by the Drug Policy Alliance shows that since 1980s, African-Americans were sentenced to much lengthier terms than white Americans for similar crimes, which is the sign of great injustice and even racism.
The Facts about the Prison Population
The statistics on the prison population in the United States revealed by the Center for American Progress shows the great injustice towards the representatives of minority groups. According to the survey conducted, the rate of prison population from 1970 to 2005 rocketed to enormous numbers: in 35 years, the number of arrests with further incarceration grew by 700 per cent. Moreover, African-Americans who make up only 30 per cent of the entire population of the USA constitute 60 per cent of all individuals imprisoned, while the rest 40 per cent is constituted not only by white people but also include Latinos, Asian-Americans, and others. One more awful fact is that young African-Americans have much less chances to avoid juvenile incarceration than their white peers. Even though African-Americans make up only 16 per cent of the entire youth population of the USA, 58 per cent of African-American youngsters are sent to the adult prisons. The data about students arrested or referred shows that the students of African-American and Hispanic origin make up 70 per cent of all cases. Finally, the Black offenders usually are sentenced for longer term comparing to white ones.
Can We Stop Racial Profiling?
Sometimes, it seems that in some branches of life, the American society stuck in about 1950s, when the abuses and offences towards African-Americans were quite normal, and everyone thought that it had to be so. However, it by no means can be considered normal in the XXI century. It is unnatural for the country, which is positioned as progressive and democratic. The tragedy of the African-American teenager Michael Brown, which can be neither ignored nor forgotten, shows our society how many drawbacks it has and how many moral aspects it has completely forgotten. Nevertheless, any law, no matter how great it is, cannot reach its full potential if the people themselves do not support it working on their own drawbacks. Moreover, many members of modern society started to find loopholes in the existing laws in order to justify their immoral and sometimes even outlaw acts. The main lesson which people must learn from this tragedy is that the death of the teenager, who was only 18 years old, and the mass rebellions against the police were caused by the problem of the entire society in general: the ignorance of basic principles of a progressive society such as self-consciousness and individual work of all its members. It is the only way to solve the problem and prevent the similar tragedies in future, which, in its turn, will prevent masses of people from losing trust in law, justice, and state authorities established to protect them. Directly speaking, it will save many people, especially people from minority groups, from being abandoned with the insufficient funds, which legendary Martin Luther King mentioned in his genius speech I have a dream. If the society starts paying attention to this issue, it will come to prosperity and true equality between everyone in the future, and not only on the pages of the State Constitution. Only in this case, we will get truly and just society, where everyone will feel really free and equal, which is, actually, the aim of the democratic system.
The racial profiling is an extremely negative trend, which must be eliminated in the nearest future due to its human-hating nature. Racial profiling is enormously offensive and it humiliates the honor and dignity of any human for some traits, which, in fact, cannot be controlled by the people: the color of the skin, nationality, origin, and religion. They are the traits, which must never be the reasons for discrimination. Moreover, even in the XXI century, this awful trend made innocent people feel like a cattle being labeled and sorted, who even perceived themselves as the sub-humans for inappropriate treatment and behavior towards them. The riots, which followed the death of Michael Brown, as it was stated by J. Zenglere, finally made us pay attention to the awful remnants of racial discrimination. They still exists nowadays making more and more people suffer only for being born with the different color of skin or nationality. These riots are the mere signs of the fact that people are finally fed up with the difference between what the Constitution promises and what the reality actually is. They clearly show that the true freedom is endangered, and we must do everything possible to save it and return the trust in the laws, government, and country as a whole.