Racial profiling has become a significant part of law enforcement within the United States and across the world in these times. The purpose of this sample reflective essay provided by Ultius is to delve into the contemporary issue of greater depth and tease out some of the implication inherent within the practice. Ultius is committed to matching clients with expert writers who routinely produce high quality model essays just like this one. If you need help writing, or you’re having trouble getting started on your project, you might consider purchasing a sample reflective essay.
This essay will be organized into five main parts. The first part will consist of an elucidation of the concept of racial profiling itself. Then, the second part will proceed to some of the prominent ways in which racial profiling works within the United States today. Next, the third part will discuss the argument in favor of racial profiling, and the fourth part will discuss the argument against racial profiling. Finally, the fifth part will consist of a critical reflection on whether racial profiling should continue within the United States, as well as whether it is possible for the practice to not continue. An essay like this would likely be found on a social justice blog or as part of sociology essay assignment
To start with, then, racial profiling refers to the practice of law enforcement paying more attention to some individuals than to other individuals on the basis of those individuals’ demographic characteristics. This is in accordance with the definition of the practice provided by 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” (ACLU).
In principle, racial profiling is based primarily on the characteristic of race, although it can also expand to include other characteristics as well, insofar as a given person’s race is often associated with characteristics such as religion or national origin.
In general, racial profiling has been conceptualized within the United States has both a civil rights issue on the one hand and a pragmatic issue on the other. At the level of civil rights, it is potentially problematic for a person to be targeted with special law enforcement attention simply because of his demographic characteristics. And at the level of pragmatism, it can potentially hinder the practice of law enforcement itself. As the National Institute of Justice has written:
Racial profiling can cause multiple problems. Several law enforcement agencies have gone through expensive litigation over civil rights concerns. Police-citizen relations in those communities have been strained, making policing all the more challenging. (paragraph 2)
So, on the one hand, there are concerns about whether racial profiling is morally acceptable; and on the other, there are also concerns about whether racial profiling pragmatically works.
Racial profiling works in different ways depending on the specific historical or cultural context in question within a given society. For example, during World War II, people of Japanese and German origins were targeted by racial profiling, due to the fact that the United States was at war with the nations of Japan and Germany. Japanese-Americans were rounded up and placed in internment camps after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Today, people of Japanese origins are generally viewed as a relatively harmless security threat by law enforcement.
People of German origins have more or less been simply assimilated to the overarching racial category of Caucasian, along with the Irish who were largely discriminated against in the infancy of the U.S. Other forms of racial profiling, however, have emerged over time; and some forms have proven to have disconcerting staying power over the course of American history as a whole. What is clear, however, is that racial profiling—that is, directing selective law enforcement attention to certain demographic groups of people—has also been a significant practice within the context of law enforcement within most societies across time and place. It will now be worth turning attention to some of the more important forms of racial profiling within the United States today.
Reflective essay on racial profiling: The key examples
One of the most prominent and ongoing examples of racial profiling within the contemporary United States surely consists of the profiling of African Americans—and more specifically, of young black men. This kind of racial profiling has been responsible, in a virtually singlehanded way, for the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement. As the movement itself has written: “#BlackLivesMatter was created in 2012 after Trayvon Martin’s murderer, George Zimmerman, was acquitted for his crime, and dead 17-year-old Trayvon was posthumously essentially tried in the court of public opinion for his own murder.
Rooted in the experience of African-Americans in this country who actively resist our de-humanization in this country, #BlackLivesMatter is a call to action (paragraph 1). Essentially, police officers have recently directed lethal force against young black men in a way that they probably would not against civilians of other racial groups. This lethal force has been based on the racial profiling of young black men as inherently more criminal and/or dangerous than members of other demographic populations, and this has led to outrage among the African-American community itself and among all people with more progressive political inclinations.
Recent High Profile Cases for #BlackLivesMatter
- Trayvon Martin (Gunned down by George Zimmerman, who was acquitted of his murder. Zimmerman would go on to be arrested several times after other unrelated incidents)
- Eric Garner (Died from a chokehold applied by an offer from the NYPD while selling loose cigarettes. The officer was never charged his death sparked the #ICantBreathe movement)
- Michael Brown (Unarmed 18-year-old was shot and killed by a Ferguson police officer who was not charged in his death. His death lead and lack of charges sparked protests, and riots nationwide)
- Eric Harris (Killed by a 73-year old reserve deputy who mistook his own taser for his lethal weapon)
- Walter Scott (Shot in the back by a police officer as he was running away. This incident was captured on video, and cause national outrage)
- Freddie Gray (Died from injuries to his spinal cord while in a police transport van. There is no record of how the injury occurred and his death resulted in riots so massive a state of emergency was declared in Baltimore, MD. Although the officers involved were charged for Gray’s murder, they have since been acquitted).
Another key example of racial profiling, outlined in an Ultius sample research paper on Muslims in America, explores of the targeting of Muslims in the aftermath of 9/11 terrorist attacks. First with Al-Qadea, then the rise of ISIS, and more general threats to national security emerging from nations in the Middle East, tensions are high. For example, a young Muslim man was recently removed from an airplane after being reported by a fellow passenger, on the grounds that he was “speaking Arabic in a way that was perceived to be threatening” according to a statement by Southwest Airlines (Moghul). If he had been speaking any other language, he likely would not have been removed from the flight. The fact he was Muslim and a speaker of Arabic, the fellow passenger immediately made a mental connection regarding terrorism. Such examples, some extremely serious could be multiplied endlessly, and together could constitute a broad picture of the racial profiling of Muslims not only by law enforcement but every-day non-Muslim civilians.
Argument For racial profiling
Some stakeholders have suggested that racial profiling is in fact a valid law enforcement practice that should be permitted to continue within the United States. This argument has always been a pragmatic one in nature. Policemag.com writes:
Advocates of racial profiling contend that it’s a necessary tool during an investigation. Law enforcement officers rely on their training and experience when developing a case and if their expertise leads them to believe that a subject is involved in . . . criminal activity, this belief shouldn’t be discounted simply because it was based partly on race or ethnicity (Kaenel).
For example, it is an undisputed fact that most terrorist threats targeting the United States today originate from Muslim countries; therefore, if law enforcement observes numerous Muslims about committing this sort of crime, then it would perhaps be appropriate for him to in the future pay more attention to young Muslim men (than say, elderly White women) when attempting to prevent such crime from happening in the future.
This argument is based on the fundamental insight that at a statistical level, people from certain demographics often are more likely to commit certain crimes associated with that background than those from an unrelated background. From a law enforcement perspective, it would make no sense whatsoever to disregard this insight simply because it may strike some as politically insensitive. Rather, law enforcement officials must use all the information at their disposal to detect crimes in the present and deter future crimes. If some level of racial profiling were to provide crucial intelligence that did indeed deter crime, the conclusion is perhaps that racial profiling should in fact remain a part of law enforcement’s more general professional arsenal.
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Argument against racial profiling
The argument against racial profiling is straight-forwardly moral in nature and based on the fact that the Constitution of the United States of America guarantees the right of every citizen to equal protection under the laws of the land (Avalon Project). Racial profiling would thus constitute a direct violation of civil rights. It would deny the right of every American to be legally treated first and foremost as an American and not primarily as a member of any one demographic category. There is also the obvious point that even the potential benefits of racial profiling may not always cover the costs. The fact that most terrorists today happen to be Muslim does not conversely imply that most Muslims are actually terrorists. In short, innocent people are getting being persecuted for no reason whatsoever. This is clearly a serious moral dilemma.
The pragmatic benefits of racial profiling may be getting undermined by the drawbacks of the practice. Ranja Natarajan of the Washington Post has written:
“Profiling undermines public safety and strains police-community trust. When law enforcement officers target residents based on race, religion or national origin rather than behavior, crime-fighting is less effective and community distrust of police grows” (paragraph 4).
Such distrust gets in the way of law enforcement efforts and in the long run even helps to cultivate exactly the kind of environment within which crime tends to grow and thrive. In short, racial profiling tends toward creating an outgroup within the community by implicitly assuming that an entire population has a proclivity toward criminality; and this can actually contribute to creating the preconditions of criminality itself, in the manner of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Conclusion to a reflective essay on racial profiling
The main conclusion of the above discussion is the basis that racial profiling is a highly problematic practice that has more drawbacks than it does benefits. As the review of arguments has shown, racial profiling breaks down trust within a community, which in turn makes the existing problems of crime worse. At the level of principle, it is also a clear violation of civil-rights and equal treatment of all under the law. On the other hand, the point could also be argued that at some level, it would be almost impossible for most law enforcement officers to avoid racial profiling. This is for the simple reason that racial profiling does in fact sometimes yield true insights regarding the nature of crime within a given community. Such insights may be an indispensable tool to officers who are simply trying to do the best job they can. Especially in a profession that requires split-second decision making in literal matters of life and death.
The best suggestion that can be made is that law enforcement training should attempt to become more sensitive and conscious regarding the use of racial profiling. On the one hand, it is clearly absurd and immoral to walk down the street thinking that every black person is a criminal or that every Muslim is a terrorist; on the other, it would also be wrong and ineffective for competent law enforcement officers to disregard information that they view as genuinely salient. Information that could possibly include demographic factors, just as it could include a plethora of other factors as well should not be discarded. The main point of this sample essay is that it is not responsible and not even constitutional—to treat an entire population or community as inherently criminal and/or to discriminate against them on the basis of that prejudice. However, it must also be admitted that there may be a legitimate, albeit narrow, use of racial profiling as well, when such a practice is considered as simply part and parcel of an objective and empirical analysis of all salient factors. Though there is no silver bullet for this situation, continued study and research paper writing can help maintain cultural awareness.
American Civil Liberties Union. “Racial Profiling.” Author, 2016. Web. 5 Aug. 2016. https://www.aclu.org/racial-profiling-definition
Avalon Project. “U.S. Constitution.” Author, 2016. Web. 5 Aug. 2016. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/amend1.asp
Black Lives Matter. “About the Black Lives Matter Network.” Author, 2016. Web. 3 Mar. 2016. http://blacklivesmatter.com/about
Kaenel, Rob Von. “Racial Profiling: A Pragmatic Approach.” Patrol Blog. 8 Apr. 2011. Web. 5 Aug. 2016. http://www.policemag.com/blog/patrol-tactics/story/2011/04/racial-profiling-a-pragmatic-approach.aspx
Moghul, Haroon. “The Unapologetic Racial Profiling of Muslims Has Become the New Normal.” Quartz. 20 Apr. 2016. Web. 5 Aug. 2016. https://qz.com/665317/the-unapologetic-racial-profiling-of-muslims-has-become-americas-new-normal/
Natarajan, Ranjana. “Racial Profiling Has Destroyed Public Trust in Police.” Washington Post. 15 Dec. 2014. Web. 5 Aug. 2016. https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2014/12/15/racial-profiling-has-destroyed-public-trust-in-police-cops-are-exploiting-our-weak-laws-against-it/?utm_term=.d35197e48135
National Institute of Justice. “Racial Profiling.” Author, 10 Jan. 2013. Web. 5 Aug. 2016. https://www.nij.gov/topics/law-enforcement/legitimacy/Pages/traffic-stops.aspx