The Racial Profiling Epidemic

Article by Jin Sun Park

Photos compiled by Matthew Seet

2014 saw a stream of racial profiling incidents in the United States.

First, there was the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown on August 9, 2014. Brown was fatally shot by 28-year-old Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. Although Brown had robbed a nearby convenience store, Wilson’s initial suspicion of Brown was unrelated to the robbery.

As an African-American, being approached by a police officer is not uncommon. In Ferguson alone, 86% of stops and 92% of searches made by police were of African-Americans. The shooting of Michael Brown incited protests, fueled by citizens who had previously experienced racial profiling.

Second, there was the shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice on November 22, 2014. Rice was fatally shot by 26-year-old Timothy Loehmann after a police dispatch call described a “young black male” brandishing a “probably fake” gun at a park in Cleveland, Ohio. The gun was indeed a fake Airsoft replica.

It seems that despite all the technological and medical advancements that have come about in modern times, our prejudices are still rooted in the past. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, racial profiling refers to “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”. Instead of being innocent until proven guilty, the reality that African-Americans face is that they are guilty until proven innocent.

The New York Police Department (NYPD) conducts stop-and-frisk programs in which New York police officers stop and question pedestrians, and frisk them for weapons. In 2014, New York pedestrians were stopped 38,456 times, and among them 20,683 or 54% were African-American. Of the 38,456 who were stopped-and-frisked, 31,661 or 82% were innocent. For the past ten years, the number of African-Americans who were stopped-and-frisked in New York has been constantly between 53% and 55%. This shows that there have been no improvements regarding the issue of racial profiling.

Racial discrimination is a longstanding and ongoing epidemic in the US. As one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world, it is important that the US takes measures against racial profiling, and it is our individual duty to not view others based on our differences, but through our similarity: the fact that we are all human.