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Racial Profiling


The ACLU 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. Criminal profiling, generally, as practiced by police, is the reliance on a group of characteristics they believe to be associated with crime.” Racial profiling is all too often how blacks enter into the criminal justice system, and for many, it begins in the classroom.

Black students are disproportionately suspended from class, starting as early as preschool.  Black preschool children are 3.6 times more likely than white children to receive one or more out-of-school suspensions. This pattern continues in K-12, where black students are 1.9 times more likely than white students to be expelled and 2.3 times more likely to be disciplined through involvement of officers, such as a school related arrest. “New Data Shows the School-To-Prison Pipeline Starts as Early as Preschool,” Think Progress, Casey Quinlan, citing recently released data from the U.S. Department of Education collected from all public school districts during the 2013-2014 school year, June 7, 2016.

Racial profiling takes on an entirely different level of severity outside of our public schools, at the hands of police officers on patrol. While the “stop and frisk” practice by the NYPD has been ruled unconstitutional, blacks are still disproportionately detained by police.  As it stands, twenty states have no laws prohibiting racial profiling by law enforcement. Among states that do, the policies vary widely in implementation and effectiveness. Only 17 of those states require data collection on all police stops and searches, and only 15 require analysis and publication of other racial profiling data. Limited and inconsistent data collection makes it impossible to devise effective remedies for racial profiling. “Restoring A National Consensus: The Need to End Racial Profiling in America,” The Leadership Conference, 2011.

In 2008, as the result of a discovery request in Floyd v. City of New York, a lawsuit filed against the New York City Police Department ("NYPD") alleging racial profiling and suspicion-less stops-and-frisks against law-abiding New York City residents, the Center for Constitutional Rights received and analyzed data collected by the NYPD for the years 2005 to mid-2008. The Center found that:

  • From 2005 to mid-2008, approximately 80 percent of total stops made were of Blacks and Latinos, who comprise 25 percent and 28 percent of New York City’s total population, respectively. During this same time period, only about 10 percent of stops were of Whites, who comprise 44 percent of the city’s population.

  • From 2005 to mid-2008, Whites comprised 8 percent and Blacks comprised 85 percent of all individuals frisked by the NYPD. In addition, 34 percent of Whites stopped during this time period were frisked, while 50 percent of Blacks and Latinos stopped were frisked.

  • A significant number of stops resulted in the use of physical force by the NYPD. Of those stops, a disproportionate number of Blacks and Latinos had physical force used against them.

Racial profiling itself stems from the long-term criminalization of African-American men over hundreds of years.  “The synonymy of Blackness with criminality is not a new phenomenon in America. Documented historical accounts have shown how myths, stereotypes, and racist ideologies led to discriminatory policies and court rulings that fueled racial violence in a post-Reconstruction era and has culminated in the exponential increase of Black male incarceration today. Misconceptions and prejudices manufactured and disseminated through various channels such as the media included references to a “brute” image of Black males. In the 21st century, this negative imagery of Black males has frequently utilized the negative connotation of the terminology “thug.”  Calvin John Smileya and David Fakunleb’s exceptional piece “The Demonization of Unarmed Black Male Victims in the United States” provides a detailed examination of the foundations of racial misconceptions that justify racial profiling for many in law enforcement today.  


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