In the United States, ‘The land of the Free’, racial profiling of minority groups seems all too common. Many Americans believe that law enforcement as well as many other people often discriminates on minority groups simply because of their color of their skin. Civil rights activist and many leaders of minority groups are pressuring Enforcement agencies to eliminate racial and ethnic profiling during traffic stops and supposed random pedestrian stops. However, many law enforcement representatives claim that the complaints about these activities are overstated and are simply in the heads of the accusers.
As a nation with a history of racial slavery and racial segregation, particularly towards any group that is not Anglo-American or fair skinned, African-Americans have long complained of racial profiling. Although racial slavery has been over for over one hundred years, and segregation that ended over fifty years ago, there is still tension between many people over race. Hispanics and Muslims are two other ethnic groups that feel the racial profiling, often being suspected of being terrorists or being illegal immigrants. Racial profiling is not a new subject in America. Racial profiling dates back to the colonial days in America.
The revolutionary era there was religious profiling of Quakers because they were seen as being unfaithful to the revolution. African Americans have been racially profiled since the days of Slavery. Mexicans and Latinos have been scrutinized and called out by law enforcement since around the time Texas gained its independence. 19th century immigration laws created ethnic and racial profiling against Asians and southern and eastern Europeans. In August of 1777 the Continental Congress ordered the arrests of multiple Quakers that were supposedly disloyal to the Revolution.
The Continental Congress had no evidence, and there were no trials. Many of the prisoners were exiled to a Virginia jail. The captives were released from the imprisonment because of pleas from their families and from a few political leaders. During the Pre-Civil War era African-Americans made up about one sixth of the country’s population. The majority of those African-Americans were slaves, with the majority of them slaves in the South. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 had only a few things that protected actual free African-Americans.
Slave hunters could legally capture the slaves that were able to escape. Free African-Americans had almost no immunity from being captured and treated as if they were runaway slaves. The new movie “12 Years a Slave” that recently came out in theatres shows how a free black man could be captured and sold into slavery without being able to prove their freedom, because of profiling any African-American as a slave. The end of slavery did not end the profiling of African-Americans. The Jim Crow era made segregation legal and seemingly right because of laws.
The Jim Crow laws reinforced the belief that African-Americans were inferior to whites. Any African-Americans accused of committing a crime could be subject to unjust treatment by law enforcement and even unfair trials in court. One of the most heinous acts of racial profiling was the threat of racist vigilantes. According to the Tuskegee Institute, more than three thousand four hundred African-Americans were lynched from 1880 to 1950. Mexicans and Mexican-Americans were also victim to racial profiling since the days of the annexation of Texas from Mexico.
In 1845 the Texas Rangers were formed and served as the nations first statewide police organization. According to the University of Texas’ del Carmen, the Texas Rangers committed many “brutal acts against Comanche tribes and thousands of Mexicans”. Many Mexican-Americans throughout the southwest United States and throughout most of Texas suffered from the same kind of racial segregation as African-Americans. In the 1930’s nearly 2 million Mexican-Americans were forced and aggressively pressured to leave the United States.
In the late 19th century Federal immigration laws portrayed racial profiling by the national government. In 1875 one of the first Federal Immigration laws banned the entry of the country to many undesired Asian immigrants brought to the United States for forced labor and prostitution. In 1882 the Chinese Exclusion Act banned all immigration of Chinese laborers. Decades later the United States government put in action literacy tests to gain citizenship that were swayed to only help Europeans and not Asians or Latinos. On February 19th 1942 one of the most well known acts of racial profiling was committed.
Under an executive order of president Franklin D. Roosevelt, the president ordered the internment of over 110,000 people mostly of Japanese descent following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The federal government believed that anyone of Japanese descent could be a threat to national security. Hundreds of thousands of innocent honest American citizens were forced into internment baffles me, considering that the government would never do that to White German-American citizens even though the main enemy of World War 2 was Germany.
In the late 20th century racial and ethnic profiling became an important issue in the public eye. The African-American civil rights movement embodied the desire of African-Americans to be treated equally socially and under the treatment of law. After the Civil Rights movements, African-Americans and other minorities were being treated more fairly but still falling victim to racial profiling. The FBI and DEA perfected the “formal” art of racial profiling in the 1970’s. The DEA created a “profile” for supposed drug traffickers, which targeted African-Americans and people of Hispanic descent.
The list of characteristics gave agents the right to randomly stop and search people matching the profile; legal racial profiling. In 1989 the Supreme Court granted permission to use those characteristics as probable cause to stop and search someone. Throughout the 1990’s racial profiling was an epidemic with law enforcement stops in the United States. Statistics show that African-Americans were the great majority of police drug stops. In Maryland during 1995, a man with the last name Wilkins filed a lawsuit against law enforcement to uncover hard evidence that African-Americans were being unfairly profiled.
After a thorough investigation of the Maryland law enforcement, a state police “Criminal Intelligence Report” showed that there was a explicit profile for targeting African-Americans. The investigation actually uncovered that African-Americans were 72 percent of the stops made in the state. After the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001 there was a new group in the United States being racially profiled, Middle Easterners and Muslims. The federal government, as well as the many of the American public became suspicious of anyone of Middle Eastern descent or anyone who practiced the Muslim religion.
Although the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful, many people as well as law enforcement began to racially profile them as “terrorist”. Even African-Americans and Latinos began to scrutinize innocent Middle Easterners. Although President George W. Bush promised to help end racial profiling because it was unconstitutional, following 9/11 the law enforcement began to profile even more than ever. The government focused on Arab Nationals and anyone who could possible have links to the terrorist group Al Qaeda. Immigration Authorities began rounding up hundreds of Middle Easterners for thorough questioning.
Although they denied it, Airport screeners began giving special attention to anyone who appeared to be of Middle Eastern or Arabic descent. In 2003 the Bush administration issued a Racial Profiling guideline that stated racial profiling is okay as long as it is related to National Security. In 2008 the Barrack Obama administration and critics of racial profiling began to push for more legislation to prevent racial profiling. Being the first African-American President, it seemed as if times were changing as far as racial profiling stands in the United States. In 2009 the murder of African-American teenager Trayvon Martin griped the nation.
The murder was a pure case of racial profiling by a vigilante in a predominantly white neighborhood. Martin’s murder George Zimmerman, a former neighborhood watchman was suspicious of Martin walking around his neighbor hood one evening. Zimmerman armed with his handgun, began stalking Martin and eventually confronted Martin, even though police dispatchers told Zimmerman not to. On Zimmerman’s 911 call he used racial slurs and clearly profiled Martin as a criminal because he was African-American. Eventually Zimmerman confronted Martin, the two got into a scuffle, and Zimmerman shot and killed the unarmed teen.
After years of trial, the jury eventually acquitted Zimmerman of the murder charge claiming it was “self defense” even though Law enforcement told Zimmerman to not follow Martin and Zimmerman did anyways. The Trayvon martin murder is still a current issue that has the nation divided. After doing extensive research on the topic of Racial Profiling in the United States I have learned a lot about how far back and diverse racial profiling is. I believe that there will always be racial profiling as long as there are multiple races living in one country. Racial Profiling is simply human nature and cannot be undone by making laws or legislation.
People subconsciously profile individuals based on their individual history and knowledge. People say “I don’t see color” but the fact of the matter is, everyone sees color. Even the victims of racial profiling are guilty of racially profiling others; whether or not they say it out loud people still think it. The only thing people can do is try there best to not act upon their assumptions of others based on race, and try their best to treat everyone equally regardless of what you may think initially. Its like the old saying, “Don’t Judge a book by its cover”.