(Davis, 2001) That number is sure to have risen dramatically since Davis did her research.
The debates surrounding both the efficacy and the morality of racial profiling have created a lot of disagreement from many communities of color. Kabzuag Vaj is an organizer with the Asian Freedom Project in Madison, Wisconsin. The Asian Freedom Project has garnered hundreds of accounts of racial profiling of Southeast Asian youth over the past year. (Davis, 2001)
"Talking to the mainstream about racial profiling is hard," says Vaj. "The excuse people give us is extreme times demand extreme measures, whatever is necessary to catch the terrorists." (Davis, 2001) Organizers at People United for a Better Oakland (PUEBLO) also face similar concerns. They understand that although they are on all levels a multiracial organization, their campaign against racial profiling and police misconduct is simply inadequate to address the current political and sociological situation. "The fact that we have members from the Arab-American community means we work in solidarity with that community, but our work is not set up right now specifically to meet the needs of that community," laments Dawn Phillips, PUEBLO director.
The debates surrounding racial profiling have also engendered tolerance in some unlikely places. According to Davis, although Shehadeh does not believe that racial profiling is an effective way to stop crime, nor that it will prevent further attacks against the United States. However, he believes that some form of racial profiling is understandable in the current political environment. "What we say is that racial profiling is not the answer. Security for all is what's needed," says Shehadeh. "As Arab-Americans, we are tolerant of this phenomena because we understand, because we're sensitive. But just for now." (Davis, 2001)
Like many Arab-Americans, Shehadeh has recently felt an increased pressure to prove his patriotism in the months since September 11, and is temporarily willing to put up with policies and actions that in the past have been completely unacceptable. But Shehadeh is not naive about the root causes of recent U.S. domestic and foreign policy decisions. "The solutions of war and hate mongering tighten the grip of racism," he says. It remains to be seen how much tighter that grip will become, and what it will take to break it. (Davis, 2001)
As a bottom line, racial profiling of Arabs has replaced racial profiling of African-Americans as the leading cause for concern about American liberties and freedoms. (New York Times, 2002) Granted, most Arab-Americans in America do not have the economic and socio-economic issues that African-Americans have, but they have a host of constitutional issues that may be even harder to remedy in today's political climate, without a serious look at the systems that put racial profiling in place.
Depsite advances, African-Americans still face economic hardship
On the other hand, the problems of African-Americans are not at all traceable to the recent history of America. Rather, the moment Africans were brought to America as slaves against their will, that action created the hundreds of years of inequality that have followed, and now followed us into this newest millennium.
One of the most striking areas in which the differences between African-Americans and the majority in America exist is in health. The legacy of racial and ethnic health disadvantages suffered by African-Americans (indeed, the second largest minority group in the United States) constantly forces patients, health practitioners and policymakers to recognize the taint of America's "slave health deficit." Infamous healthcare scandals like the Tuskegee Syphilis Study -- in which African-Americans were exploited for scientific gains, and their health sacrificed -- affect the healthcare choices of both African-Americans and their providers, most often against a solid backdrop of racist, classist and paternalist medical conduct, abhorred on the surface throughout the industry, but implemented nevertheless in a subversive manner. (Williams, 2002)
Despite passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, numerous medical milestones, and the government's "Healthy People" initiative to eliminate minority health disparities by the year 2010, African-Americans still suffer much higher disease and excess death rates than other racial groups. And indeed, these diseases are the most grave facing humanity: diabetes, heart disease and cancer. (Nader, 2004) Infant mortality, one of the nation's most critical gauges of maternal and societal health, is twice as common in African-American communities than it is in white communities, and even occurs across all socioeconomic ranges of the Black community. This indicates that the problem is more systemic than simple cash flow economics. There is a deep seeded prejudice systemically against African-Americans from a socio-economic standpoint that compromises their health as a people.
In addition to such striking disparities in health, African-Americans also suffer from disparities in the care they receive. A 1999 study found that 80% percent of Blacks believe they receive different medical treatment and have different care options due to their race and ethnicity. (Williams, 2002)
Also, findings from a 2001 study by The Kaiser Family Foundation's National Survey of Physicians corroborates African-American patients' sentiments on the disparity in health care. The study's first portion examines physicians' perceptions of disparities in medical care. Of the Caucasian doctors interviewed, 77% believed that disparities in how people are treated within the healthcare system "rarely' or 'never' happen based on factors such as income, fluency in English, educational status, or racial or ethnic background." (Williams, 2002) In the same survey, 8 out of 10 Black physicians reported that the "healthcare system at least 'somewhat often' treats people unfairly based on various characteristics, with differences particularly striking with regard to race and ethnicity." (Williams, 2002) This is a striking difference, and again one indicative of a large systemic problem in allowing African-Americans access to arguably the most important portion of our economic base: health care.
In the article, "The Meanings of 'Race' in the New Genomics: Implications of Health Disparities Research," investigators pose the question: "To what extent are health disparities the result of unequal distribution of resources, and thus a consequence of varied socioeconomic status (or racism), and to what extent are inequities in health status the result of inherent characteristics of individuals defined as ethnically or racially different?" (Lee, 2001)
Williams sums it up best in her research: "The historic conflicts and passionate opinions surrounding this question necessitate a commitment to social justice by both patient and provider to ensure the rights, equity, access and participation of African-Americans in health care. This commitment must constrain healthcare financiers, administrators, practitioners, researchers, academics and those working in related disciplines to acknowledge history and develop historically-accurate, evidence-based health policies examining: (1) why African-Americans have historically succumbed to poorer health faster and earlier than their non-Black counterparts; (2) how to close the disparity gap without blaming African-Americans for their historically sub-optimal health status; and (3) how to encourage American medicine to embrace more sociocultural (as opposed to strictly biomedical) care paradigms and mechanisms facilitating humane and non-prejudiced medical encounters."
In conclusion, both Arab-Americans and African-Americans face significant and compromising racial problems moving into the new millennium. For African-Americans, the problems are ongoing since the days of slavery: less economic clout, and less social acceptance, so more problems such as reduced and less quality health care, as explained above. However, the trend is positive for African-Americans. For Arab-Americans, the problems are more recent and are trending worse: The problems are more associated with fundamental freedoms and privacies as noted in racial profiling research, and promise to dog us through a good portion of the beginning of the new millennium.
Nicole Davis. 2001. The slippery slope of racial profiling. Color Lines. December 2001.
St. Petersburg Times, June 8, 2003. Aschroft's America. Editorial.
Anthony Romero. 2001. Letter to Attorney General Ashcroft. American Civil Liberties Union, Oct. 17, 2001.
New York Times, Mar. 13, 2002. Hundreds of Arabs still detained in U.S. Jails. From Reuters.
Soo-Jin Lee, S., Mountain, J., Koenig, B. "The Meanings of 'Race' in the New Genomics: Implications of Health Disparities Research." Yale Journal of Health Policy, Law and Ethics. Spring 2001. Vol. 1.
Karen Williams. 2002. Eliminating African-American Health Disparities via History-Based Policy. Harvard Health Policy Review. Fall, 2002.