African Americans and Hispanics face unjust scrutiny

Posted on: August 27th, 2013

By Shanna Johnson
The Phoenix

This month, a judge in New York ruled the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk tactics and policies were unconstitutional. The simple but important decision by U.S. District Judge Shira Sheindlin has brought the ongoing issue of racial profiling to attention in the United States.

Although it has been a long-time problem, racial profiling has gained widespread exposure in the media as well as with everyday Americans. After the George Zimmerman verdict, the United States was finally forced to address an issue that has been raging through U.S police departments for hundreds of years.

Racial profiling, as defined by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), is “the discriminatory practice by law enforcement officials of targeting individuals for suspicion of crime based on the individual’s race, ethnicity, religion or national origin.” Many officials have defended the act of racial profiling by claiming that people of African American and Hispanic descent are often the perpetrators of crime. However, this places minorities in a ‘guilty-until-proven-innocent’ situation when they are victims of random stop-and-frisk tactics, contrary to the national standard of being innocent-until-proven-guilty.

For instance, in mid-July, four black interns from Rainbow Push, a multiracial organization for social change in Chicago, were stopped a block away from the Rainbow Push office by the police, handcuffed and received a full search.

According to CBS News, the explanation given to the men was that “they were standing on a corner known for gang loitering.” However, none of these interns was a gang participant; in fact, they were college students. Two of them were enrolled at Chicago’s top schools, University of Chicago and Northwestern University. The Rainbow Push interns’ experience is not unique in the city of Chicago, or in the United States.

In the Longview, Texas Police Department’s Contact Report, which details the different number of times drivers of differing racial backgrounds are stopped and searched, it was shown that drivers of African American descent and Caucasian drivers were stopped nearly the same amount of times. However, additional charts in the report proved the number of African American drivers in Longview were extremely smaller than the number of Caucasian drivers in the area. This means that more black drivers were stopped per number of licensed black drivers than the number of Caucasian drivers per licensed white drivers.

The Phoenix/ Sydney South

Thus, despite the apparent even numbers of black and white drivers stopped for vehicle searches in Longview, Texas, there is a significantly higher number of African American drivers pulled over who have access to a car than Caucasian drivers. This is, then, where racial profiling stems from. Police officers and public officials are able to look past clear profiling by creating charts and graphs with misleading statistics.

However, the court rulings from this month in New York have created reasonable doubt about the integrity in the police departments of the United States, and rightfully so. Racial profiling has gone on too long in America, a country that claims equal chances for all, as well as a judicial system that is built on an innocent-until-proven-guilty policy. Yet, how can Americans truly claim these basic freedoms when minorities everywhere are still being hunted down and searched with no other probable cause than their appearance?

Today’s America needs to take the extra strides to reach true equality and freedom if we ever want to claim to be the freest country in the world. Oppression still exists everywhere in the United States and it is up to us, its citizens, to set in motion the change that needs to take place to ensure the true freedom for all this country promises in its Constitution.

Image by Sydney South of The Phoenix.
You can contact Shanna Johnson at
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