Racial Profiling

Racial profiling is the tactic of stopping someone because of the color of his or her skin and a fleeting suspicion that the person is engaging in criminal behavior (Meeks, p. 4-5). This practice can be conducted with routine traffic stops, or can be completely random based on the car that is driven, the number of people in the car and the race of the driver and passengers. The practice of racial profiling may seem more prevalent in today’s society, but in reality has been a part of American culture since the days of slavery. According to Tracey Maclin, a professor at the Boston University School of Law, racial profiling is an old concept. The historical roots “can be traced to a time in early American society when court officials permitted constables and ordinary citizens the right to ‘take up’ all black persons seen ‘gadding abroad’ without their master’s permission” (Meeks, p. 5). Although slavery is long since gone, the frequency in which racial profiling takes place remains the same. However, because of our advanced electronic media, this issue has been brought to the American public’s attention.
Some consider racial profiling a viable tool to reduce crime. The New Century Foundation, a non-profit organization based in the Washington, D.C. suburb of Oakton, VA, published a report on the American Renaissance website, stating that African-Americans commit 90% of the approximately 1,700,000 interracial crimes of violence that occurs every year in the United States. They are more than fifty times more likely to commit violent crimes against whites than vice versa. According to this same report, African-Americans are much more likely to commit violent crimes than whites and when they commit these crimes, target whites slightly more than half the time. The foundation believes that these crime statistics warrant racial profiling as a crime deterrent and believe that it may even reduce crime.
A recent article published on the website, Jewish World Review, states that racial profiling is frequently used, not only in law enforcement, but also in everyday existence. The author, Walter Williams, states that, “we face a world of costly and incomplete education, and that means we have to do a lot of guessing and playing hunches.” Because of this uncertainty, specific indications are required that can provide the public with more information and allow educated decision-making. The article presents examples of the types of racial profiling in existence. For example, simply for their own safety reasons, taxi drivers will avoid driving into a particular area of the city because of the reputation of it’s propensity to crime. They will also drive past a person of color and stop to pick up a white passenger for that same reason, valid or not. Williams cites his own personal experience with his physician, who uses a typical black man’s health statistics collected from years of study to aggressively monitor his high blood pressure. It is because these medical statistics illustrate that high blood pressure is more prevalent in black men than in any other demographic group.
In a n article published in the Wall Street Journal, entitled “Racial Profiling Doesn’t Prove Cops are Racist”, Jackson Toby states that “a little perspective is in order here.” Being a professor of sociology, he believes that racial profiling is an extremely important idea in modern criminology. He continues that within two years of the policy’s adoption by the New York City Transit Police, the number of felonies in the subway declined by more than 30%. Basically, he believes that by paying attention to subtle behavior, criminal behavior can be prevented, and certain ethnic and age groups exhibit certain subtle behaviors. He goes on to say that although blacks are only 12% of the American population, they comprised 56% of the arrests for murder, 42% of the arrests for rape, 61% of the arrests for robbery, 39% of the arrests for aggravated assault, 31% of the arrests for burglary, 33% of the arrests for larceny, and 40-% of the arrests for motor vehicle theft. Because of these statistics, police are more prone to look for the type of person more apt to commit these crimes, and in these cases, based on the data, African-Americans are brought to the forefront.
Naturally, there are opponents to the use of racial profiling of any kind.