Erin Callihan, AIUSA, states that “Increased national security should not equate to decreased civil liberties. All people are entitled to due process and other basic human rights and constitutional protections” (Amnesty International). Racial Profiling, according to Amnesty International, occurs when race is used by law enforcement or private security officials, to any degree, as a basis for criminal suspicion in non-suspect specific investigations. The Constitution, which is arguably the most important document of the United States, clearly states that every person has the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
This document sets the American people apart from many other countries in that it is supposed to give us equal rights. An issue that has risen in the United States time and time again and has threatened this equality is that of race and racism. Now in law enforcement from the levels of your local police department to that of prestigious FBI units there is the specialization in profiling, racial profiling to be more exact. Racial profiling has not only proven to be largely unsuccessful, but it is violating our equal rights ending up in over representation in America’s prisons and discrimination in the real world.
Race is a socially constructed form of categorization that has often been misunderstood, leading to different forms of racism. It is a set of shared interests, characteristics, and culture. Race is an illusion that has been created to construct identity. Identity is not totally decided by you, but chosen for you by what people have decided about you. The way that people see other people and things as right or wrong depends on the culture you, the individual, is living in. This then makes identity as something that is mostly cultural. Race is like a stereotype, or over generalization, that is making prejudices that lead to racism. A prejudice is any preconceived opinion without correct or adequate information. Through something that is socially constructed through culture, like race,
Race is difficult to measure and apply to people because it is self identified. According to Ailya Saperstein and Andrew M. Penner in their article “The Race of a Criminal Record: How Incarceration Colors Racial Perceptions”, “Most research on race in the United States treats race as an intrinsic characteristic of individuals, a fixed group membership ascribed at birth and based on one’s ancestry” (93). This is difficult to put into use in the real world because if you have one idea of what each race is you will find that people are different depending on where you are, the time period you are there, the amount of interaction with other cultures, and the history in that land among many other variables.
An example of this would be how I was considered to be really Mexican at UCSB, yet I am considered “White washed” by my family, and I consider myself to be a combination of both as well as Colombian. As having been grown up first generation American it is very hard on me to have been Latina. When I studied abroad last year in Argentina I was not considered Latina at all, but White. The Argentine had a different perception of race and insisted that it didn’t matter where your parents were from, it only mattered where you were born. The majority of the population does not fit into only that one mold most researchers have put them in.
Race is affected by the population in power and as such can be seen as a form to keep the status quo. The minorities in a society are often the ones that have a negative reputation and have to deal with the social construct others have made about them. Examples of minorities would be Blacks, Latinos and Muslims. The three races have faced a lot of scrutiny here in the United States. They have been accused of being a large part of the crime population, being uneducated, and being terrorists. Although most are not this is the stereotype they have to live with every day.
When you are part of the majority you get to make up your own identity, which usually ends up being positive. When you are part of the majority, in the case of the United States this would White, it usually means you a doing well or better than others socially. Other things associated with Whites would be a higher education and the suburbs. As the dominant culture all the laws that are created have had them in mind. Racism is institutional prejudice and as such it is hidden. Therefore in order to be racist I would argue you need to be part of the dominant culture.
There is a misrepresentation in the incarceration is an example of racial profiling as being unconstitutional. The majority of the population of incarcerated rates is made up of Blacks and Latinos. Can it be that they are truly a crime committing race and since Whites are educated they perform less than half the crime? The answer to this is no. African Americans have long been subjugated to felons since the history of the United States began. They were seen as lowly and uneducated and convicted of crimes they did not commit. Unable to fight back due to the fact that no one would listen or care even if they knew they were wrong they had to endure punishment. It is a fact that if you are part of the dominant culture the punishment will be less severe.
The thing about the Rodney King incident that enraged people was not whether he was guilty or not it was the manner in which he was prosecuted. He was beaten severely unfairly without being able to have a trial to see if he was guilty. In the eye of the law you are “innocent until proven guilty”, and Mr. King was never given a fighting chance. Another example of discrimination through racism would be the immigration law in Arizona that “requires police officers, “when practicable,” to detain people they reasonably suspect are in the country without authorization and to verify their status with federal officials” according to Randall C. Archibold of the NY Times (par. 22). How is a person reasonably suspect of being an illegal? This is done those physical features. The fourteenth amendment provides protection against unreasonable searches based on race. Is this law not an example of that?
Saperstein and Penner argue that racial profiling, through incarceration rates, affects the individuals, families and communities (93-94). If we start from the top we see that Latinos and Blacks do not constitute even half of our government making it misrepresentative of our population. One way racial profiling affects the individual is by making it harder for them to obtain a job, let alone a well paying job. Sometimes the individual has to work at a young age to help their parents with rent and other necessities. This is why we see and therefore associate Latinos and Blacks in low income neighborhoods. Once you are part of the minority and have been incarcerated the odds of you succeeding in life get significantly slimmer.
According to Saperstein and Penner if you have been incarcerated for something narcotics related then you are disqualified for a lot of the aid the government offers. In your FAFSA application you are asked if you have been convicted of any drug related felony. If you press yes then you are not eligible for financial aid. Since most of these families cannot afford to send their children off to college that option completely diminishes. As a result you have communities with low income, who are most educated to the high school level, if that with high unemployment.
Let’s put aside the fact that racial profiling goes against the constitution and look to see if it actually works. According to sources the FBI’s use of criminal profiling has a low success rate. Their success rate can be equaled by that of psychics some would argue. Captain Ron Davis of the Oakland Police Department said it best in September 9, 2003 to NOBLE when he stated that “Racial profiling . . . is one of the most ineffective strategies, and I call it nothing less than lazy, sloppy police work.
It’s basically saying you don’t want to learn about your community, you don’t want to learn about people’s behavior, you don’t want to do your job, and don’t want to investigate, you just want to stop a lot of people and see if you can come up with some statistical number at the end of the evening. . . .”. (Amnesty International) There has been criticism on the process because essentially what you are is forgetting about the hard evidence and guessing up a picture of what the perpetrator looks like. Profilers have forgotten was fieldwork is and have become armchair professionals that don’t need to go to the crime scene to get insight. In Macolm Gladwell’s What the Dog Saw he describes the job of a profiler as relying on typology to paint a picture of the killer.
Most of reasoning behind this technique is that of homology, the relationship between the culprit and the action. Gladwell noticed that there were two categories of killers, organized and unorganized. The organized chose their victim carefully and went through great measures to not be caught. The disorganized killer chose their victim randomly with usually high stakes of being caught.
Gladwell finds out that people don’t fall strictly into one category therefore crimes don’t fall into one category. You can have the same crime done for different motives. By relying on connections they are making up based on theories they have made up that have made this guessing game that Gladwell calls a “party trick” (354). The moral of his story being in a way like Einstein’s in that if you get enough wrongs you eventually get a right. However, there is too much a stake, one of these being people’s lives, to play a guessing game at that level.
Racial profiling and Criminal profiling are unconstitutional and frankly a waste of time. Racial profiling opens the door and accepts discrimination to uphold the status quo. Criminal profiling is a waste of time, tax dollar money and obscured by racial profiling. Let’s stop with these erroneous short cuts and actually take the time to evaluate what racial profiling actually does to others.
Amnesty International | Working to Protect Human Rights. Amnesty International USA, 2011. Web. 20 Mar. 2011. Archibold, Randall C. “Arizona Enacts Stringent Law on Immigration.” New York
Times 23 Apr. 2010, New York ed., A1 sec. New York TImes, 23 Apr. 2010. Web. 21 Mar. 2011. Gladwell, Malcolm. “Dangerous Minds.” What the Dog Saw: and Other Adventure Stories. Camberwell, Vic.: Allen Lane, 2009. 336-56. Print. Saperstein, Aliva, and Andrew M. Penner. “The Race of a Criminal Record: How Incarceration Colors Racial Perceptions.” Social Problems 57.1 (2010): 92-113. JSTOR. Web. 20 Mar. 2011.