Definition Essay: What is Racial Profiling?

Racial Profiling

Racial profiling is a discriminatory practice which is still widespread among law enforcement officials. It lies in targeting people for a crime based on their race, religion, ethnicity or nationality. The police practice criminal profiling and they rely on the group characteristics to determine if the person is associated with the crime. There are numerous examples of racial profiling are still registered in the USA and around the world.

The most common racial profiling cases include the use of the race to determine who to stop for minor traffic rules violations (so called “driving while black, brown and Indian”) or the use of race to determine if the person carries illegal contraband. These actions don’t have any harmful effect on the people. There are some cases with opposite results. For example, numerous cases of targeting Arabs, South Asians, and Muslims are registered. The frequency of these cases occurrence grew after the attack of September 11ths. They are characterized by different immigrant violations, because of lost connection with the tragedy of the Pentagon and World Trade Center.

As it was said above, the racial profiling cases are the results of law enforcement officials. This group of people includes police officers, security guards in department stores, security agents of airports, airline pilots who disembark passengers from flights and many others.

The main reason of racial profiling by these agents is the suspect of the person due to race or ethnicity. There are cases when the racial profiling was not the reason of suspect or law-breaking case. There numerous cases registered by police departments connected not to the racial or ethnic makeup and the individuals who defended themselves as victims of racial profiling were involved in criminal activities. That is why a definition of racial profiling doesn’t rely solely on racial or ethnical characteristics of an individual.

Racial profile definition must also include ethnically or racially discriminatory acts which are still part and parcel of law enforcement cases registered. As an example, we can provide the era of lynching African-Americans in the South during 19th and early 20th century, and the civil rights movement in 1950’s-1960’s when sheriffs did nothing while Ku Klux Klan racists terrorized African Americans and others none-white citizens. During these times, sheriffs released black who is suspected of crime to lynch crowd.

It is essential to note, that there are numerous cases of racial profiling was registered recently. Among them is the case about African American who moved into the white community and got attracted because of his racial makeup. Neighbors terrorized him and several times he filed complaints with local police, who did nothing to help him. Instead of help, they arrested him because of shooting his gun into the air, when he tried to disperse a hostile crowd in his yard.

The effects of racial profiling can be characterized as harmful for a safe living of people. There are numerous cases registered when racial profiling results in the death of a victim. In 1995, in Pennsylvania 31-year-old African American male, Jonny Gammage, was killed while driving a Jaguar of his cousin. The witness said that he saw that three officers were kicking Jonny while he lay on the pavement. According to the police officers Gammage initiated the struggle himself. Another example took place in Ohio. On April 2001 Timothy Tomas, a teenage African American, was shot to death by a police officer. He had fourteen warrants connected with traffic violations and failure to wear a seatbelt. Officer shot him when he was running away. Additionally, he was the fifth black male who was killed by police during five months, and fifteenth since 1995. This case results in two nights of protest in front of city hall.

According to University of Chicago studies conducted in 2001 among police officers, they are more likely entered to the confrontation when the suspect is black, brown or Indian:

  • Research participants fired at an armed target more quickly when this person is African American. And in a case of an unarmed target, they decided not to shoot quickly when the target was White.
  • Tested failed to kill armed target when it was White and shot unarmed targets by the mistake when it was African American.
  • Shooting bias was higher among tested who followed a strong cultural stereotype that African Americans are aggressive, dangerous and violent.

Additionally, there are numerous organizations which fight with racial profiling since the World War I. Among them is the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Association), which not only publishes and research information about cases of profiling but also assists people with their cases.

Above all, not looking at the known issues of racial profiling and organizations which are fighting with this phenomenon; it still exists in all parts of the USA and the world. The main reason for its existence is education and the values people are following through generations. That is way it is important to define racial profiling and educate next generations reducing numbers of cases which are presented now.

1. (2000). Driving While Black Or Brown. [online] Available at: [Accessed 7 Nov. 2016].
2. DONOHUE III, J. and LEVITT, S. (2001). THE IMPACT OF RACE ON POLICING AND ARRESTS. 1st ed. [ebook] Сhicago: by The University of Chicago. Available at: [Accessed 7 Nov. 2016].
3. Larson, J. (2016). Behind the death of Timothy Thomas. [online] Available at: [Accessed 7 Nov. 2016].
4. Sorrell, G. (2016). Why Moving Black Families Into White Neighborhoods Isn’t Justice. [online] The Federalist. Available at: [Accessed 7 Nov. 2016].
5. Velez, D. (2015). Driving while black, brown, or Indian. [online] Daily Kos. Available at: [Accessed 7 Nov. 2016].

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