According to a 1999 Gallup Poll Social Audit
on Black/White Relations in the United States, 59% of the individuals
polled, believed that racial profiling is a widespread problem.
This discriminatory practice is more commonly referred to as racial
profiling, where police officers stop racial or ethnic groups
under the assumption that they are more likely to commit certain
types of crimes. Statistics reveal that law enforcement officers
have stopped more than four out of ten African Americans because
of their race. While the definition of racial profiling may differ
from region to region, it is more likely to occur among individuals
living in urban rather than suburban or rural parts of the country.
An unsurprising, but observable factor in the
poll was that participant responses also differed among
racial lines. Seventy-seven percent of African Americans believe
that racial profiling is a nationwide problem, compared to 56%
of whites. And, almost three-quarters of young black men between
the ages of 18 and 34 reported having been stopped by police because
of their race or ethnic background. African Americans, however,
are not the only ethnic members of society who have been targets
of racial profiling. One in five Hispanics and Asian men also
report being the victims of racially motivated stops by officers
of the law.
Between March 8 and April 22, 2001, the Washington
Post, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and researchers
from Harvard University, conducted random interviews that included
315 Hispanics, 323 African Americans and 254 Asians to determine
the extent of racial profiling. This survey further supports the
Gallop Poll Audit conducted two years earlier, in that nearly
one in four African Americans, or 37% of those surveyed stated
they had been stopped unfairly by police because of race. What
is surprising, however, is that 25% of African American
women also reported being stopped by local or state authorities.
Luckily, efforts are being made to combat this social issue on
a national level.
The End Racial Profiling Act of 2001 (House
of Representatives 2074 and Senate 989) was introduced to Congress
on June 6, 2001. Receiving wide bipartisan support, this legislation
seeks, first, to create federal prohibition against racial profiling;
second, to provide funding for the retraining of law enforcement
officers on how to combat such practices; and third, to hold law
enforcement agencies accountable for its continued use of racial
profiling. The American Civil Liberties Union, the National Association
for the Advancement of Colored People, and countless other organizations
fully support this bipartisan legislation.
On the state scene, the Shoals Diversity Council
in Florence, Alabama, hosted a town hall meeting on Critical
Issues on Racial Profiling earlier this year. Sixty-seven
law enforcement officers, district attorneys, community lay leaders
and students from the International Bible College attended the
meeting. According to the meeting evaluation, many of the officers
found the seminar helpful and reported that no formal complaints
had been filed against their department in regard to racial profiling.
However, police administrators expressed an interest to conduct
similar programs in their units, particularly, for those officers
who were not able to attend the town meeting.
Unfortunately, racial practices based on prejudice
or discrimination are deeply woven into our society like threads
in fine tapestry. To treat one group of people less favorably
than another because of color, religious belief or ethnic origin
is racism. It can be experienced personally, through jokes,
graffiti, violence and abuse, or institutionally, by denying individuals
access to education, jobs, housing, services, etc. The effects
of racism, on the other hand, are far reaching and serve no purpose
other than to further erode our country economically, socially,
politically, psychologically, or even ecologically through the
physical breakdown of neighborhood communities.
Many of us would like to think that we rise
above such practices, but the probabilities are greater that each
and every one of us has been the victim of, or partook
in some form of racial or discriminatory behavior whether in thought
or deed. Recently, such incidences have reared their ugly heads
as citizens are physically abused, verbally abused, or even killed
as a result of the atrocities that occurred on September 11. Why?
Because of their religious beliefs or simply because they looked
to be of the same ethnic origin as the alleged terrorists.