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If seen from the perspective of law enforcement, racial profiling can be described as "government action that relies on the race, ethnicity, or national origin rather than the behavior of an individual or information that leads the police to a particular individual who has been identified as being, or having been, engaged in criminal activity" (Etienne, 2012).
Though racial profiling is practiced in almost every country of the world, United States is the best example to understand it and its pros and cons. The law enforcement agencies in the United States have often treated the minorities in the country rather unfairly. Before the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the U.S.A., the main victims of racial profiling were Blacks. However, since the occurrence of these terrorist attacks, the law enforcement agencies have primarily targeted Arabs and Muslims for profiling (Bah, 2006).
One can find several notable likenesses among the profiling of Blacks and the profiling of Arabs and Muslims. The basic problems with racial profiling in both cases are that the civil liberties of guiltless people are defied and the equal protection of the law to minorities is denied. Today, racial profiling has been redefined by the War on Terror. It has not just led to a modification in targeting a certain population, but has also altered the manners by which racial profiling is carried out (Bah, 2006).
Before the September 11 attacks, the underlying principle for racial profiling mainly emphasized on the necessity to guard the common man against drug trafficking and illegal immigration. The main targets for racial profiling were either the Blacks or Hispanics. However, since the attacks of 9/11, terrorism has turned out to be the most important security concern. This unease has showed the way to a remarkable increase in the profiling of Arabs and Muslims who are considered by the majority as terrorists. In addition, the terrorism problem has led to the attrition of the narrow-mindedness and bigotry toward racial profiling that differentiated the pre-9/11 period. This attrition is revealed in the brisk introduction of new security regulations that target Arabs and Muslims. Moreover, the quick decline in the efforts that aims towards combating racial profiling also mirror this erosion (Bah, 2006).
In contrast to the racial profiling of Blacks, racial profiling of Arabs and Muslims after the September 11 attacks can be considered "as a state-sponsored crackdown" (Bah, 2006) with the intention of protecting the country against terrorism. Still, racial profiling of Arabs and Muslims has repercussions for the people in America who belong to minorities. The most important thing to be remembered is that civil liberties which are indispensable for an independent society are undermined by racial profiling. The introduction of new-fangled and inflexible security regulations signify that the powers of law enforcement agencies have been increased and new channels for the exploitation of deprived minority groups have been opened up. Freedom and impartiality are the basic values of a democratic system. The violation of these values with racial profiling apparently increases apprehensions regarding the status of democracy in America (Bah, 2006).
The government has declared that racial profiling is erroneous and decadent excluding the in circumstances when national security is threatened. By declaring so, it emphasizes on the point that "there is something unique about the War on Terror that makes ethnicity and race legitimate factors when the same tactics have been found to be both ineffective and contrary to equal protection principles in other criminal investigations" (Rudovsky). If truth be told, the terrorism threats in the U.S.A. are more or less totally a response to racial and ethnic-based abhorrence and detestation. This is the reason why most of the individuals who commit and who will commit terrorist acts in almost surely are either the members of Al Qaeda members or its supporters. Thus, they are either Muslims or Arabs (Rudovsky).
However, racial profiling has some basic flaws. There are several fundamental flaws in this approach. Firstly, it is incorrect that the modern-day terrorists belong to a single ethnic group. Thus, focusing on Muslim Arabs makes it difficult to understand that how the attacks by the others will be prevented. This should not be forgotten before conducting racial profiling that the terrorists who bombed the Oklahoma City and others who have committed similar crimes and acts of terrorism were home grown and belonged to other religious backgrounds and ethnicities. Secondly, when race or ethnicity is used as a factor to blame a specific group, there is a considerable risk of abuse. Therefore, when millions of Muslims and Arabs are seen as a target population for racial profiling, it means that hundreds and thousands of them who are not at all guilty are abused just because they belong to a targeted group (Rudovsky).
Moreover, one of the other disadvantages of racial profiling is that it undermines efforts carried out to develop reliable intelligence within the community that is seen as a target group. It becomes difficult to encourage the members of such communities to inform about any suspicious activity. Thus, to expect support from a group of people who are targeted as presumptive terrorists is ridiculous (Rudovsky).
Thus, it is unfair to justify racial profiling as a normal part of police practice. It cannot be justified even in exceptional circumstances (Annabelle, 2007). Racial profiling even violates the U.S. Constitution. There is no doubt that it is a compelling government interest to prevent terrorism. However, it is not at all justified to rely on an inaccurate generalization like racial profiling to achieve the goal of government interest (Tom, 2002).
Racial profiling cannot be seen as just a threat to minority communities; it is in fact a big problem for American democracy. Democracy is that "system of government in which rulers are elected through regular free and fair elections" (Bah, 2006). However, it is frequently forgotten that elections are in reality a means to ensure that the civil rights and human self-esteem of all the citizens are protected. These civil liberties include liberty from uninformed arrest, right to a free and fair trial, and impartiality. Consequently, a democratic society is tested not when it holds elections but it is also examined on the basis of the steps it takes to protect the civil liberties of its citizens (minorities in particular). Racial profiling, in simple words, is the violation of the indispensable values of liberty and equality. In this way, it demoralizes and chips away the trust of minorities in the very institutions of authority that are meant to provide them protection. Moreover, racial profiling is another factor why minorities get disenchanted by the system of democracy (Bah, 2006).
World War II teaches an important historical lesson regarding racial profiling. Almost immediately after the incidence of Pearl Harbor took place, innumerable trustworthy and devoted Japanese-Americans who were innocent and had done nothing to awaken the doubt of the establishment were gathered together from their homes and businesses. Later, they were placed in relocation camps spread all over the western part of USA just because they belonged to a race that Americans did not approve of. Also, throughout the war, only ten individuals belonging to America were found guilty of spying for Japan and all of the convicted ones were Caucasian. It is crystal clear through this proof that the even the most wide-ranging national experiment with racial profiling in wartime failed (Tom, 2002).
Thus, racial profiling is a complex problem that not only contravenes the principles of liberty and equality but also disobeys the 14th and 15th Amendments of the Constitution. The good thing is that there have been numerous efforts from government officials, the courts, and civic organizations to combat racial profiling and police brutality. The United States of America is now being challenged by the racial profiling from two sides. The first…[continue]
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