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Should your race make you a criminal?
“Use by law enforcement personnel of an individual’s race or ethnicity as a factor in articulating reasonable suspicion to stop, question or arrest an individual, unless race or ethnicity is part of an identifying description of a specific subject for a specific crime.”
That is the definition of racial profiling, as offered by the Arizona Attorney General. Does that really sound like anything that should be acceptable?
The reasonable suspicion means that a search can only take place for a good reason; being a member of a certain race does not qualify as a good reason, nor does it ever, as no races are anymore criminal than others, according to the human rights facts on enotes.com.
One of the largest reasons racial profiling is said to be wrong is because it challenges the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution which protects the right to be safe from unreasonable search and/or seizure and the Fourteenth Amendment which states in section one:
“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law, which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without the due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
There has also been an act prohibiting this use of “crime-prevention.” The act is called the End Racial Profiling Act of 2007 of ERPA, which prohibits law enforcement from engaging in racial profiling. It defines racial profiling as “the practice of a law enforcement agent to any degree relying on race, ethnicity, or religion in choosing an individual to investigate.
While racial profiling’s major flaw is being challenged by the Constitution, it has smaller ones that can be just as damaging to society and citizens.
A story I found on Northeastern University’s website tells the story of a young black man, on his way to a job interview. The police stop him, presumably for speeding. He reasons that the stop should not take long, and that he will be on his way shortly. However, instead of writing a simple speeding ticket, the state trooper calls for backup. When the second trooper arrives, the two men search his car for drugs, assuming that since he is African-American, he must obviously be in possession of drugs. The car, pried apart panel by panel, is left to little more than a vehicle frame, but to no avail. As expected, the police found no drugs, and left the man’s SUV dismantled on the side of the I-75, with nothing for the young black man to do but sit and weep in humiliation.
According to amnestyusa.org, approximately 32 million American citizens are subjected to racial profiling every year. This number is approximately equivalent to the population of Canada. Profiling can even lead to more horrific acts, such as police brutality and violence. AIUSA received reports of a black man named Santiago, who was epileptic. While he was having an epileptic seizure, police automatically assumed the man was high on drugs, and forced him to the ground with a knee on his back. Santiago stopped breathing, and after he was given oxygen and transported to the hospital, he died.
Data from Encyclopedia of Drugs, Alcohol, and Addictive behavior consistently showed that African-Americans and Hispanics are disproportionately stopped by law enforcement for searches and frisks. For example, court records showed that in Maryland, African-Americans made up 70 percent of the searches made by the Maryland State Police from January 1995 through December 1997, when only 17.5 percent of the speeders were African-American.
In ’99, the New Jersey Attorney General found that 77 percent of those stopped on New Jersey highways were African-American or Hispanic, even though only 15 percent of drivers on these highways were of these ethnicities.
Studies show that officers get the same rate of people, white and African-American, when they conduct stops for drugs. In other words, officers are no more likely to find drugs on an African-American than a white man. The U.S. Public Health Service found, based on a confidential survey, that in 1992, 76 percent of illegal drug users were white, while only 14 percent were African-American. Also, most participants of this survey said that they usually purchased drugs from someone of the same race. The suspicion that people of different ethnicities are more likely to be carrying drugs is sharply contradicted by this data.
The consequences of racial profiling are not nearly limited to individual humiliation or societal wrongs. There are 32 million Americans that find themselves the subject of racial ridicule every year. It is certainly not an acceptable way to address crime, and should not be used to find any suspect for any crime, now or ever.