The Prevalence of Racial Profiling in American Society
“I was just looking around for skittles and the convenient store manager kept staring at me. This wasn’t the first time though, so I didn’t really react,” my friend said.
He realized there weren’t any skittles in stock, so he decided to leave. He was held back as the store manager called the police.
Upon the police’s arrival, he was shoved forward by the store manager who assumed he had stolen goods in his possession. The police flipped him around and pushed him against the police car, urging him to put his hands up as a gun was pointed at his back.
“I didn’t know what to do. I just kept crying and yelling to not shoot. I didn’t even steal candy. I ain’t like that.”
My friend’s black.
Racial profiling is rooted in white supremacy as it perpetuates the idea that black people are always criminal suspects solely because of their racial background, and thus, gives police officers an unreasonable justification to harm or arrest black people, especially black men. It’s no surprise that racial profiling has its origins in slavery. Displaced slaves were “profiled,” or identified, by slave patrols. If a slave didn’t have any papers justifying their master’s permission to be in that certain place, then the patrols assumed that the slave was a runaway,which caused them to be brutally punished or returned to their master. And although slavery has been abolished for nearly two centuries, its effects on the Black community are still prevalent today.
“When I was ten, I got the talk. It wasn’t bout no birds or bees. My dad said to me if I’m ever stopped by a cop, I better keep my hands on the dashboard and look forward.”
Driving while Black— the actual meaning of the notorious phrase “driving while intoxicated.” It originated from President Nixon’s 1971 War on Drugs which was essentially a campaign that called for the non-partisan support of politicians to take down drug dealers once and for all. However, the internality of the campaign was defective as it mainly preyed on minority groups, particularly black people. Police officers would, and still do, pursue black drivers on roads and halt them in order to conduct a search for any drugs that might’ve been in the driver’s possession. These searches were primarily conducted on the premise of racial appearance. The actions of these police officers completely violate the 4th Amendment, which states that searches can only be conducted if there is a probable cause.
Being black doesn’t equate to criminality.
“I was at a job interview for Foot Locker. I was the second guy to get there and the last one to leave. All the other applicants were white. I felt like the interviewer didn’t care about my interview. I already knew I wasn’t getting the job.”
Unfortunately, racial profiling doesn’t just stop at police encounters but instead, it creeps up behind black people to haunt any remaining normalcy in their lives. A study conducted by Learning for Justice concluded that racial profiling carried out by white employers is a strong determinant of whether or not a black applicant gets the job. The study found that 25% of white interviewers not only sat at a greater distance from black applicants, but they also stammered over their words and rushed through their interviews while simultaneously remaining collected during a white applicant’s interview. It's common knowledge that behavior like this directly affects the performance of the applicant, making them less likely to get the job.
“My junior year I got sent home because I wore a durag to school. They told me I wasn’t allowed to wear it because apparently it means I’m affiliated with a gang. I was just tryna protect my hair from the humidity.”
Implicit bias is the subconscious action of associating negative stereotypes with certain groups of people. It’s often said that racial profiling stems from implicit biases that have been ingrained in our minds from a young age. Holly Yan, a writer for CNN, stated that these “seeds” of implicit bias are “planted in our heads” before we even begin kindergarten. The spectrum of implicit bias ranges from mild, moderate, and severe.
Recent studies demonstrated that those with severe implicit biases are more inclined to view (in the hands of a black person) non-weapons, like a brush, as weapons, like a gun, in comparison to those who fall on the mild side of the spectrum. And although racism is taught and not inherent, it’s extremely difficult for individuals who have years of rooted racism ingrained in their mind to just unlearn everything they’ve been told. They have been purposefully wired to spew racial hatred through slurs, discrimination, and hate crimes.
There are ways to tackle racial profiling. While it needs to be systematically dismantled, it can be undone on the individual level. An easy way to begin is to identify any implicit biases that are tucked away in your psyche—stereotypes you were unaware you’ve projected. There are several online quizzes that can help you pinpoint what biases in specific you hold.
Continue to educate yourself on racism and check your privilege. Do your research in order to steer clear of any political hysteria put out by politicians that stems from racism.