Racial profiling



Racialprofiling is reliance of a person’s ethnicity or race byauthorities as a fundamental aspect to determine whether to connectthem in with a certain risk to crime. In the United States, racialprofiling is an old time practice dating back to the 17thCentury. Its effects have been detrimental and have continued toaffect the way people relate in a population, affect law enforcementefforts, and the general community at large. African Americans havebeen discriminated by the judicial system for a long time, a factorthat has seen most of them in jail or in clash with law enforcers.After September 11 2001, racial profiling took another dimension asMuslims Arabs and South Asians minorities faced extensivediscrimination which linked them with terrorism. This issue hasbrought about controversy as it is illegal in all jurisdictions.Ultimately, racial profiling is a practice that is dehumanizing andundermines the fundamental principles under which our constitution isbased.

Historyof Racial Profiling

Racialprofiling in the United States goes back to the times of slavery.Back in 1693, court officials in Philadelphia provided the policewith legal rights to stop and restrain blacks whether slaved or freedif seen loitering the streets. The practice persisted during the JimCrow period and has continued to dominate the 21stcentury (Staples, 2011).

LegalIssues of Racial Profiling

Racialprofiling was considered constitutional by the United States SupremeCourt in the U.S v. Armstrong. This decision overturned a 9thCircuit Court judgment which argued that, law enforcement should actwith knowledge that, individuals of different races engage in allforms of crime-not with the basis that certain form of felony isrestricted to a specific racial or ethnic group. This ruling eludedthe challenges presented in the Fourth Amendment of the penal codewhich promises individuals’ right to be protected from frisk orarrest devoid a warrant given on probable cause as well as theFourteenth Amendment which mandates everyone to be handled in thesame way under the law (Staples, 2011).

AmericansSupport of Racial Profiling

Racialprofiling has continued to be supported by a majority of Americans.In a study carried out in the year 2011 by Rasmussen Reports, asignificant number of U.S citizens maintain racial profiling, citingit as necessary in the modern society (Page, 2010). Those who supportit argue that it is known through trends and statistics the racial orethnic groups that are likely to commit certain types of crime. Forexample, most Americans including the justice system have a tendencyof assuming that African Americans engage more in crime than anyother group in the population. This picture was evident in New Yorkin 2010 when Fernando Mateo, who was by then the boss of New YorkState Federation of Taxi Drivers, commented in support of profiling(Staples, 2011). In his statement he argued that, it is good forracial profiling to be practiced because, once a person is shot, it’shighly likely that the perpetrator is African American or Hispanic.

RacialProfiling in Practice

Inthe United States, there is an increased rate of racial profiling ofdrivers by traffic police. It is reported that majority of driversasked to pull over and searched are predominantly of African Americanminority (Staples, 2011).

InDecember 2001, only three months after the 9/11 terror attacks, anAmerican citizen of Middle Eastern ethnicity by the name Assem Bayaafound himself in trouble when he was asked to alight a flight he hadboarded at Los Angeles airport heading to New York. Although thegentleman had been cleared of all security checks, the managementasked him to alight citing that he had made other passengersuncomfortable. He was allowed to boarder the next flight.


Afterthe 9/11 attacks, Muslims and people of Muslim, Arabic or MiddleEasterners have been victims of racial profiling by both lawenforcement officers and the population in general, since they areidentified as potential terrorists (Murray, 2010). The centralgovernment enacted policies including the Patriot Act 2001 in orderto enhance monitoring of potential threats to public securityfollowing the 9/11 incidents. The establishment of such laws has beentermed as supporting preventive methods such as racial profilingwhich is controversial and results to mistrust of the government bythe minority groups. To achieve their goal of monitoring Muslims, theFBI was screening mosques and businesses in Washington DC and warnedit would depot any Muslim who proved uncooperative (Murray, 2010).

Inaddition, the 9/11 events led to the precincts on immigration laws asargued by Murray (2010). The central government introduced stringentmigration quotas to enhance national security at the boarders. Thissaw men immigrants above 16 years entering the U.S from more than 25Middle Eastern Countries and North Korea excessively scrutinized in2002. According to Murray (2010), these immigrants were required tobe photographed, their fingerprints taken, interrogated and havetheir financial status taken besides having to register afresh beforemoving out of the country.

Effortsto End Racial Profiling

Effortsto reduce racial profiling have been intensified with President Bushdeclaring racial profiling wrong, in his speech to a Joint Session ofCongress in 2001. In his statement Bush stated, &quotRacialprofiling is wrong, and we will end it in America. In so doing, wewill not hinder the work of our nation`s brave police officers. Theyprotect us every day — often at great risk. But by stopping theabuses of a few, we will add to the public confidence our policeofficers earn and deserve.&quot(FACTSHEET RACIAL PROFILING – USCCR: United States Commission n.d).Later the same year, the Bureau of Justice Assistance an affiliate ofthe U.S Department of Justice established an online Racial ProfilingData Collection Resource Center. This center runs an online portalwhich acts as a universal clearing house for law enforcement agenciesincluding the police, legislators, social scientists, communityleaders, journalists, and legal researchers to get informationregarding current data recording initiatives, model policies andlegislations, police strategies, as well as procedural equipmentswhich can be applied in gathering and evaluating data on racialprofiling. In this portal, data regarding the conditions ofcollecting data, authorities mandated to collect data, legislationthat is awaiting approval and implemented in various states,community groups. It also contain knowledge on development andimplementation, data gathering protocols, officers’ instruction inorder to execute the processes as well as analyzing and reportingthese data and results (Staples, 2011). Furthermore, the Departmentof Justice in June 2003 provided guidance in regard the way race isemployed by authorities which prohibited racial profiling by lawenforcement agents nationally (Amnesty International, 2007).

Effectsof Racial Profiling

Despitethe efforts put forth by the government especially through the U.SDepartment of Justice, the injustice of profiling people in regard totheir race continues to be ubiquitous in the country. Thisunjustifiable practice is a blemish on the American democratic systemand an abuse to the guarantee of racial equality. For instance, since9/11, fresh forms of racial profiling have continued to hurtdifferent people within the population including Arab, Muslim andSouth Asian communities.

Similarly,the federal government’s support for exceptional raids onimmigrants particularly Latino communities and places of work by lawenforces has been very disturbing. The policies have unfairlyextended the purview of and weakened essential trust in local lawenforcement, the affected immigrant groups and created an atmosphereof fear (Staples, 2011). Consequently, the anti immigrant rhetorichave resulted to a rise in detestation crimes against the profilingof Latinos.


Racialprofiling is a practice that has a long history in the United States.Historically, African American has been discriminated amongst otherminority groups. Since the 9/11 a new form of racial profiling knownas Islamophobia has emerged. The federal government through its armshas contributed to racial profiling through policy and practice. Atthe same time, the same government has put in place measures to fightracial profiling. The U.S population seems to be in support of thispractice to some extent which makes the government’s efforts lesseffective in addressing the problem. Rather than making racialprofiling a law enforcement issue, the government should engage allstakeholders in order to put to an end this vice effectively.


AmnestyInternational (2007). Threat and Humiliation: Racial Profiling,National Security, and Human Rights in the United States&quot.AmnestyInternational USA.Retrieved http://www.amnestyusa.org/pdfs/rp_report.pdf (Accessed June27, 2014).

FACTSHEET RACIAL PROFILING – USCCR: United States Commission … (n.d.).Retrieved http://www.usccr.gov/pubs/sac/ny0304/app (Accessed 27 June2014).

Murray,N. (2010). &quotProfiling in the Age of Total InformationAwareness.&quot Journalof Race and Class, 52(2),3-24.

Page,S. (2010 Jan, 13). Poll: Most support ethnic profiling in airsecurity. USAToday.Retrievedhttp://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/2010-01-12-poll-terrorism-obama_N.htm(Accessed 27 June 2014).

Staples,R. (2011). &quotWhite Power, Black Crime, And Racial Politics&quot.BlackScholar41(4),31–41.