An Argument Against Racial Profiling Essay

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"I don't want to talk about whether or not racial profiling is legal. Racial profiling is not an effective law enforcement tool." -- Eric Holder, 82nd Attorney General of the United States

Before any argument can be made against racial profiling, it is important to understand what racial profiling is. The American Civil Liberties Union, defines racial profiling as "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"(Racial Profiling: Definition). Using this definition we can determine that racial profiling excludes any evidence of wrong-doing and relies solely on the characteristics listed above. We can also see that racial profiling is different from criminal profiling, which uses evidence of wrong-doing and facts which can include information obtained from outside sources and evidence gathered from investigation. Based on these definitions, I will show that racial profiling is unfair and ineffective because it relies on stereotyping, encourages discrimination, and in many cases can be circumvented.

There have been many studies and case reports involving racial profiling, particularly racial profiling issues involving traffic stop and seizures. In a study done of reports on the stop-and-searches done on Interstate 95 in Maryland, it was found that 28.4 percent of black drivers and passengers and 28.8 percent of white drivers and passengers stopped were found with illegal contraband. (U.S. Department of Justice) The disparity between the two statistics is a mere .4 percent and shows that race is not an issue. Further reading into the seventy one page report written by the U.S. Department of Justice shows several similar statistics, as well as outlining incidences where a disproportionate number of minorities, compared to whites, where stopped and searched, yet the percentages of white people arrested for speeding or having illegal contraband were higher, although not always significantly so, than those of other minorities.

Elephants are gray, but not all gray things are elephants. Racial profiling would say that all Muslims are Al-Qaeda, because Al-Qaeda members are Muslim. This is a clear example of stereotyping. When assumptions are based upon stereotypes they run a large risk of being entirely wrong, and racial profiling relies on stereotypes.
In his article in the National Review, John Derbyshire says “Confronted with a snake or a fawn, our immediate behavior is determined by generalized beliefs - stereotypes - about snakes and fawns. “ (Derbyshire) This is only partially true. Empirical evidence tells us that fawns are harmless. There are no reports of vicious attacks by baby deer. It is because of that fact that Derbyshire’s argument is inherently flawed. Granted, there are people who are afraid of snakes in general and will run screaming from even the most harmless of the species, but there are many people...

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