The Moral issue of Racial Profiling

Imagine living everyday in paranoia knowing that everywhere you go, everything you do is being observed and judged. Imagine walking into a convenience store or a clothing boutique and having someone watch your every move, thinking that you’re going to steal something, or God forbid reveal a bomb from under your clothes. Imagine being mocked and ostracized at school because you’re “different”.  No one likes to be left out, but then, why do we judge? Why do we discriminate? Everywhere we go, everywhere we look, there is always somebody different. Many of us focus on differences and not on similarities of other people. 

Racial discrimination is everywhere. In general, it is a belief that a particular race or ethnicity is inferior or superior to others. Racial discrimination involves any act where a person is treated unfairly or vilified because of their race, color, descent, national or ethnic origin, religion or belief. 

All people are created equal. In all holy books and in our own constitution, it is mentioned that all people are created equal. We all need to understand that racial discrimination is an immoral act. 

Racial discrimination is experienced across a spectrum. It may occur in a passive way by excluding people socially or by being indifferent to their views and experiences. It may take the form of prejudice and stereotyping of different groups in our community; in name calling, taunting or insults; or in actively and directly excluding or discriminating against people from services or opportunities. In its most serious manifestation, racial discrimination is demonstrated in behaviors and activities that embody hate, abuse and violence  particularly experienced by groups who are visibly different as a result of their culture or religion, their skin color or their physical appearance.

For centuries, the issue of racial discrimination has been haunting millions of people worldwide. Almost everywhere you turn; you see some form of discrimination. Research shows that its effect is greater on people that care about doing well in society. They are put into a situation where their skills or abilities might be in question, either in school, at work or in public places. Being discriminated against can change someone’s whole world. 

Emotional trauma and mental health effects from discrimination and stereotyping result in significant harm to an individual. There are other damages, such as loss of a job or promotional opportunities, loss of pay for days not worked, and damage to reputation.The people that discriminate or stereotype usually choose scapegoats on whom to take out their frustration and aggression. They choose those who are seen as weaker or inferior to themselves. 

A big culprit of racial profiling is the police . Take the Central Park Five case for example. For those of you who don’t know the The Central Park Five are five boys, Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam and Kharey Wise, who at the time of their arrests, they were between the ages of 14 and 16 years old. They were arrested and charged with the brutal beating and rape of Trisha Meili in 1989. 

 

While all five boys had initially confessed to participating in the Central Park attacks, the teens and their attorneys insisted they were coerced by the police into giving false statements during interrogations that lasted hours. They claimed the interrogators deprived them of food, water and sleep for over 24 hours.

Despite inconsistencies within the confessions and no physical evidence tying them to the crime scene, the teens were convicted of various charges during two separate trials in 1990.The Central Park Five served between 5 and 12 years but all of them had been released before their convictions were vacated in 2002. Despite maintaining their innocence, the Central Park Five’s contention that their confessions were coerced didn’t gain credibility until June 2002, when Matias Reyes claimed sole responsibility for raping and beating Trisha Meili. 

The hastiness of the NYPD to charge those kids with those heinous crimes because of the color of their skins left them scarred. Their childhoods were taken from them and they were thrown into the prison system away from their families, friends and everyday lives.  

In December of 2019 the New York Times came out with an article titled ‘I Got Tired of Hunting Black and Hispanic People’.  It was about A police commander who told his officers that patrolled the subways in Brooklyn to think of white and asian people as soft targets and urged them to instead go after blacks and latinos for minor offenses like jumping the turnstile. This happens every day around the country. 

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics report on interactions between police and the public , African Americans are 3 times more likely to be killed by the police than white people.

African Americans are more likely to be stopped by police than white or Hispanic people, Black and Hispanic people are also more likely to have multiple contacts with police than white people, especially in the contexts of traffic and street stops. When police initiated an interaction, they were twice as likely to threaten or use force against Black and Hispanic residents than white residents. And More than 1 in 6 African Americans who were pulled over in a traffic stop or stopped on the street had similar interactions with police multiple times over the course of the year.

I personally have been racially profiled by the police walking home from the library one night with my twin brother . A squad car had pulled over near us and the cops inside asked us where we were coming from and where we were heading. They asked us if we knew anything about a robbery that happened at a gas station a few blocks away. When replying “No” they asked us to come to the side of the car. We respectfully declined and walked away. In that instance,  even though I knew my rights I was, I was afraid for my life. And many African American have the same fear of racial profiling by the police and society.    

It’s time for us to make a way. How? Well We can start by joining organizations and promoting positive relations. But There is a challenge in this for all of us. We share a common humanity, and we all have a role in respecting the right of all to enjoy it equally, with dignity and with the same opportunities to thrive.

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Nathan Odige