Racial profiling occurs when the law enforcement base their criminal investigations on race, ethnicity, or religion, which in the process undermines human rights and freedom. Although some people consider racial profiling as a means of improving security, it must be stopped at all cost because it is discriminatory.
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In the U.S.A., racial profiling dates back to the years of mistreatment of black Americans as slaves, as they were considered inferior. Although some people claim that racial profiling does not exist, there are stories and statistics that prove otherwise. In the year 2000, approximately 80 percent of Americans surveyed indicated that they had heard of racial profiling and expressed the opinion that it should be stopped. (Coke. p. 91)
During the post – reconstruction years in the South White, vigilantes kept watch over Black Americans, using the black codes and vagrancy laws to legitimize their actions. Also, after the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941, federal authorities forced 120,000 men, women’ and children of Japanese ancestry into internment camp.
According to the Japanese American National Museum’s (5) fact sheet, Ellis island along with other immigration facilities were used as detention and internment station for enemy aliens, under the authority of Immigration and Naturalization Service. Though living in the U.S.A. for decades, they were forbidden to become citizens.( www.history.navy.mil )
Another example involves president McKinley, who was murdered in September of 1901 by Leon Colugos. His secret agent admitted that he was focused on a ”dark complexioned man”. However, it was the African American who ended up apprehending the assassin.
In the year 2002, during the Beltway sniper attacks in the D.C. area, the police were after a white man believed to be using the Capital Beltway for travel in a white van or truck. The speculation was justified by the several previous attacks involving lone white men.
Ten people were killed by the sniper while others sustained injuries around the Washington Metropolis area and Interstate 95 in Virginia. It was later discovered that the crime was perpetrated by two black men, Lee Boyd Malvo and John Allen driving a blue 1990 Chevrolet Caprice Sedan. They were arrested and imprisoned.
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Considering the post September 11 cases, the arrest of John Walker lindh (a White middle – class male) and Richard Reid (a British citizen of West Indian and European ancestry) confirms that effective law enforcement methods must rely purely on behavior. John Lindh was apprehended in the late 2001 in Afghanistan where he served as a soldier in the army.
He was interrogated and sentenced after a plea deal was reached. Richard Reid on the other hand was found guilty of being an Al-Qaeda trained terrorist. He tried to destroy an American plane with an explosive device concealed in his shoes but was not successful.
Even though the proponents of racial profiling say that it is beneficial, the negative aspects seem to outweigh the positive ones. To begin with, it undermines law enforcement efforts, for example, the terrorist investigations in U.S.A. involving the Oklahoma city bombings, in which the two male assistants easily escaped since the police believed the act had been committed by Arabs.(www.amnestyusa.org)
Racial profiling also encourages hatred and undermines national unity. The Arabs and American Muslims community claim that the tactics used in racial profiling has diminished their willingness to participate in anti – terrorism campaigns.
It is a proven failure in the ‘‘war on drugs’’. Race is mostly considered when investigating drug traffickers, since it is widely believed that people from a certain race are more likely to engage in the act compared to others. (Amnesty International USA).
Some people may claim that racial profiling is useful in instances where people from a certain race tend to commit particular crimes, hence the police are in a better position to narrow down the search for the suspects. I strongly disagree since it is not documented anywhere that race and crime are related.
In conclusion, it is obvious that racial profiling is common worldwide, but, it must be stopped at all cost if we are to unite and actively participate in nation building.
Amnesty International USA. The Truth about Racial Profiling: Five Facts.
Bumgamer Jeffrey B. Profiling and Criminal Justice in America. ABC-CLIO, 2004
Coke Tanya E., ”Racial Profiling Post – 9 / 11 :Old Story, New debate’ in lost liberties, ed, Cynthia Brown (New York : The New Press, 2003 ), p. 91. Racial Profiling in the U.S.A.
Shuford Racism, Racial Profiling and Racial bias in the war on drugs.