In a recent article, Obama administration Attorney General Eric Holder has outlined new guidelines for federal agents to use to minimize racial profiling. The new guidelines do not pertain to racial profiling in the vicinity of the border or in certain circumstances as it related to national security.
The new racial profiling guidelines will have no substantial bearing of local law enforcement and only are symbolic as a hope that local law enforcement will follow the federal governments leadership in this manner. Thomas Jefferson wrote to Gideon Granger that, “Our country is too large to have all its affairs directed by a single government. Public servants at such a distance, and from under the eye of their constituents, must, from the circumstance of distance, be unable to administer and overlook all the details necessary for the good government of the citizens; and the same circumstance, by rendering detection impossible to their constituents, will invite public agents to corruption, plunder and waste.” The result was a separation of powers between state and federal government.
According to the tenth amendment, the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people. The tenth amendment does not require that state follow the same new racial profiling guidelines outlined by the federal government. Citizens will have to look for other measures to ensure that incidents such Eric Garner or Michael Brown never happen.
Racial profiling refers to the targeting of particular individuals by law enforcement authorities based not on their behavior, but rather their personal characteristics such as race, ethnicity, national origin, and religion. Racial profiling is prevalent in the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that for 2005, Black drivers (4.5%) were twice as likely as White drivers (2.1%) to be arrested during a traffic stop, while Hispanic drivers (65%) were more likely than White (56.2%) or Black (55.8%) drivers to receive a ticket. Furthermore, Whites (9.7%) were more likely than Hispanics (5.9%) to receive a written warning, while Whites (18.6%) were more likely than Blacks (13.7%) to be verbally warned by police. During traffic stops, Black (9.5%) and Hispanic (8.8%) motorists were searched at higher rates than Whites (3.6%).
Racial profiling begins with the perceptions of police officers. Whites make up 75% of the police force in the US. The perceptions of Whites will dominate the police force policies which lead to racial profiling.
Even though the Obama administration is attempting to lead the police racial profiling reform effort through policy, it is the perceptions of Blacks that are portrayed in the media and in our schools that must be addressed before any significant change is possible.
“Television news programs and newspapers over-represent racial minorities as crime suspects and whites as crime victims. Black and Latino suspects are also more likely than whites to be presented in a non-individualized and threatening way – unnamed and in police custody. . . .”
The perception that television portrays begins in our schools. Those who make the decision to negatively portray Blacks as criminals at one time in their lives sat in a classroom. They became witness to the racism that exist in our classrooms and how it continues to become acceptable part of the school culture.
We find this evident with the acceptance of the school to prison pipeline. The school to prison pipeline provides future police personnel a glimpse of the racial expectations in regards to the punishment of minorities.
White teachers have an opportunity to off set racial profiling by refusing to accept racism in their classroom. While I do not believe that many White teachers intentionally become racist against Black students, I do believe that when we make them aware of the different biases that they bring to the classroom, they have the best opportunity to eliminate racial profiling by promoting positive racial teacher student classroom relationships which will result in the elimination of racial profiling.
Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.
PO Box 1668 Blackwood, NJ 08012
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Author of Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships
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