Ending Racial Profiling Essay

This essay has a total of 1515 words and 7 pages.

Ending Racial Profiling





Ending Racial Profiling

The federal government should end racial profiling by requiring policemen and other law
enforcement officers to keep detailed records of each individual they stop to question or
search. These records should include the person’s race; the reason stopped; how long the
car was detained; and whether a ticket was issued, the car searched, or any illegal goods
or weapons were found when the traffic stop was made. Racial profiling is the police
practice of stopping and searching African-American and Hispanic drivers at rates far
disproportionate to their numbers on the road. I personally, have repeatedly been an
innocent victim of racial profiling in the city in which I reside and while visiting other
cities in the United States. Famous African-American men such as Congressman Harold Ford,
Jr. of Tennessee, Wesley Snipes, Blair Underwood, Christopher Darden, and NAACP President
Kweisi Mfume have also been stopped by police, allegedly for no other reason than the
color of their skin. Robert L. Wilkins, a Harvard-educated Washington attorney, was
traveling along U.S. Interstate 68 in 1992, returning from his grandfather’s funeral, when
a Maryland state trooper pulled the families rented Cadillac over for speeding. When the
trooper asked to search the car and its contents, Wilkins refused. But the trooper set
loose a drug-sniffing dog to comb the car’s exterior, including the windshield, the
hubcaps, and the taillights while Wilkins and his family stood in the rain. No drugs were
found. The Wilkins family was completely humiliated. They were humiliated. They were later
awarded a $95,000 settlement from the Maryland State Police, as well as an agreement by
the agency to keep records to help prevent discrimination (Jones 38-40).

Statistics on racial profiling are controversial, but in a recent study, Temple University
Professor John Lamlberth determined that about 75 percent of the motorists and traffic
violators along one stretch of U.S. Interstate 95 were white, but 80 percent of searches
were of minorities. The attitude of certain high-ranking law enforcement officials also
helps to compound the problem. For instance, New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman
fired the state police superintendent; Carl Williams for saying that while he did not
condone racial profiling, minorities were responsible for most of the country’s illegal
drug trade (Cannon 72).

Statistics confirm that African Americans-particularly young black men-commit a
dramatically disproportionate share of street crime in the United State. This is a
sociological fact, not a figment of a racist media (or police) imagination. In recent
years, victims report blacks as perpetrators of around 25 percent of violent crimes,
although blacks constitute only about only about 12 percent of the nation’s population.

Statistics such as these make it seem as if racial profiling is not the result of bigotry,
and that the factual claim upon which the practice rests is sound. But, racial profiling
is still wrong because racial distinctions are and should be different from other lines of
social stratification. That is why, since the civil rights revolution of the 1960s, courts
have typically ruled-based on the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause-that mere
reasonableness is an insufficient justification for officials to discriminate on racial
grounds. In such cases, courts have generally insisted on applying “strict scrutiny”-the
most intense level of judicial review-to government actions. Under this tough standard,
the use of race in governmental decisions making may be upheld only if it serves a
compelling government objective and only if it is “narrowly tailored” to advance that
objective (Kennedy 70-74).

Racial profiling should be ended even if the generalizations on which the technique is
based are supported by empirical or factual evidence. There are actually many contexts in
which the law properly forbids us from playing racial odds even when doing so would
advance legitimate goals. For example, public opinion surveys have established that blacks
distrust laws enforcement more than whites. Thus, it would be rational-and not necessarily
racist-for a prosecutor to use ethnic origin as a factor in excluding black potential
jurors. And, because demographics show that in the United States, whites tend to live
longer than blacks, it would be perfectly rational for insurers to charge blacks higher
life-insurance premiums. However, the law forbids both practices, and it should forbid
racial profiling (Kennedy 70-74).

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