Politics

Racial Profiling in the US: The Result of Systemic and Institutional Racism

Systemic Institutional Racism

Systemic and Institutional Racism against people of African descent in the United States followed a more or less uniform pattern till the formal desegregation instigated by the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s: the racist agenda has always been explicitly manifested in heinous acts like lynching or disenfranchising Black people from all the basic human rights. Despite the formal desegregation, people of color, especially many African Americans find themselves caught in the hideous circle of poverty. In the past, the degraded condition of the Blacks was justified on the grounds that Negroes, like the Indians, were an uncivilized lesser race lacking human qualities compared to the superior whites. Thomas Jefferson’s views of African women as worse than Orangutans have been endorsed by James Hunt, the President of the London Anthropological society who states that “The brain of the Negro [man] bears a great resemblance to a European woman or child’s brain… while [that of] the Negress approaches still nearer to the ape.” Yes, this is an extremely racist opinion made in 1863, but long before it the US congress decreed that “a Black man protecting the virtue of his womenfolk was subject to capital punishment by the state” (Virginia statue of 1792, Chapter 42). More than two long centuries have passed since then, and America has now transformed itself into what is called the “post-racial” society. People are no longer as blatantly racist as Jefferson or Hunt. Race is not discussed that way it used to be in the past, and the discourse on race has accommodated itself with the requirement of time. As Giroux states, ”…the racial conditions, ideologies, and practices… have been transformed, mutated, recycled, and taken on new and, in many  instances, more covert modes of expression.” This changing nature of the race discourse has complicated the ways people think about race or address racial discriminations. Desegregation, legislation of the civil rights laws, upward mobility of people of color has fundamentally changed the ways race has been debated just decades ago. This discursive formation of race and racism has, to some extent, controlled the ways people perceive race and racial identity. Despite all these changes, racism has now become systemic and institutional: it has become instrumental to the government policies enforced through the law enforcement and the criminal justice department. This is why, it would not illogical to state that the ultimate example of systemic racism is “Racial Profiling”.

“Racial Profiling,” a project of systemic and institutional racism,  refers to the discriminatory practice by law enforcement officials who target individuals for suspicion of crime based on the individual’s race, ethnicity, religion or national origin. This has been a growing problem in the United States, cops everywhere are targeting people just based on what they may look like following stereotypes. This is just another way minorities are being segregated and discriminated against in our society, and as it is systemic people can hardly do anything against it. With the powerful social media, people now are well aware of the police brutalities against the people of color, particularly African Americans.

Law enforcement in the United States have been illegally profiling the public based on stereotypes that have been made up by society. Systemic and institutional racism is fundamentally endorsed by those in power and this immoral act of prejudging someone is wrong in so many ways that studies constantly show that minorities are more likely than whites to be regarded with suspicion and distrust by law enforcement. Police lack lawfulness and legitimacy because of the law’s view on racial and ethnic minority, most views of the police are based largely on their personal interactions. Benjamin Todd Jealous once said “Racial profiling punishes innocent individuals for the past actions of those who look and sound like them. It misdirects crucial resources and undercuts the trust needed between law enforcement and the communities they serve. It has no place in our national discourse, and no place in our nation’s police departments.”

Racial profiling is at the heart of our criminal justice system, which is instrumental with the systemic and institutional racism geared towards the minorities, and is heavily practiced and there seems to be no end to it. If current trends continue, one out of every three African American males born today can expect to go to prison in his lifetime, as can one out of every six Latino males, compared to only one in every seventeen white males (Bonczar, T. 2003). Not only is this illegal method being practiced by police in everyday life and in the court systems, it also happens when they are in prisons/jails. These unfair and unjust practices are leaving minority communities fed up and distrustful of the law enforcement. Racial profiling occurring in the criminal and judicial systems can only lead to racial conflicts and violence.

Race has never disappeared from the American life: it has been so saturated in the everyday American life that people fail to detect it anymore. Unless something terrible like the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown or the Police Officers in Dallas are brought close to the nose of the people, it would be impossible to make them even suspect that this system is rotten and corrupted, that whiteness comes with an inherent privilege, and that the state is constantly ready to guard this privilege. As a way to maintain this privilege, the state has intentionally applied neoliberal economic policies and appointed postmodernism to execute the cultural ones. The state has always applied a strategy of denial in recognizing the inherent systemic and institutional racism in American society prompted by the emerging neoliberalism and this denial takes a discursive shape with the help of politicians, intellectuals, theorists and many others who have successfully substituted race with class, privilege with equal opportunity, poverty with culture, crimes with skin-color and so on.

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About the author

Sayeed Noman

Sayeed Noman is a Fulbright scholar and an adjunct professor at Temple University. His PhD dissertation focuses on Afrocentricity, postcolonialism, and postmodernism. His interest ranges from political to economic and cultural issues.

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