Racial Profiling Cases on Center Stage After High-Profile Arrest

Regardless of what side you come down on regarding the recent incident involving the arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, it is one of those racial profiling cases that has propelled the issue back into the minds of average Americans. Gates, a prominent Harvard professor, was arrested in his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts and charged with disorderly conduct after a neighbor called the police and reported that two men were trying to break into Gates' home. Professor Gates and his driver were actually trying to open a door, which was stuck.

Racial profiling cases involve the use of race or ethnicity characteristics to decide whether an individual is likely to engage in criminal conduct or commit a certain illegal act. In the United States, it is estimated that as many as 32 million people have been victimized by acts of racial profiling. The American Civil Liberty Union (ACLU) and The Rights Working Group released a report, in June 2009, entitled, "The Persistence of Racial and Ethnic Profiling in the United States".

The report reveals that factual data and personal accounts point to minorities, especially Latinos, Native Americans, and African Americans as more likely to be followed, stopped, or searched at a disproportionate rate compared to the rest of the population. In every area of their lives, whether worshiping, playing, traveling or shopping, minorities are unfairly subjected to racial profiling based on subjective elements of their racial or ethnic make-up, rather than any proof of illegal activity.

Following are the experiences and thoughts of three African American men regarding racial profiling cases:

Anthony is an undergraduate at one of America's premier private universities. He's walking through the corridors of the school's business management building, when a middle-aged White woman, who was probably a school administrator, asked, "Can I help you with something?" Anthony immediately detected that unmistakable tone of "What is this Black guy doing here" in her voice. He responded, "I'm fine." The lady walked away in such a way that told him she was going to get the "authorities." Another woman approached Anthony; she asks "Are you here for the interview?"

"No," Anthony replied, and she moved on. The next person who approached him was a male. He questioned Anthony for what seemed like five minutes about his reason for being in the building. It occurred to Anthony that his experience would fit the pattern of any number of racial profiling cases reported by other minority students. "Do you stop everyone in the building and interrogate them?" he asked. He explained to the person that he was a student. However, it did not occur to any of them to ask Anthony, a Black male dressed in bagging clothing, to show them his student identification card.

It seems everyone Anthony encountered automatically assumed that he could not possibly be a student at this prestigious school. Anthony said that he was

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John B. Landers is a writer for ; Regal Black Mens Magazine For more information on this subject visit our ; Community Section To read about ; racial profiling cases

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