On a cold, February night last year what inspired George Zimmerman to ignore a police dispatcher’s warning? Why was he sure that Trayvon Martin, 17, was a “suspicious” character in his gated southern Florida community? We’re still reeling from his acquittal, but this is the 5th part in a series that addresses the crucial question that remains on everyone’s mind: “Where do we go from here?”
Racial Profiling is the culprit here. The ACLU defines it as “ the discriminatory practice of law enforcement and private security practices that disproportionately target people of color for investigation and enforcement.” This happens to People of Color everyday in America. Racial profiling creates a hostile, unfriendly environment for Blacks and other members of communities of color by keeping racism less a relic of the past and more of an incessant struggle.
Examples of systemic racial profiling include the sentencing disparity in crack vs. cocaine, NYC’s Stop & Frisk, Arizona’s SB1070 and any number of instances when Black and Brown people are made to feel criminalized without just cause. Racial Profiling disenfranchises citizens of this country who are assured equal protection under the law. It also breeds resentment and mistrust towards authorities. Its normalcy is to blame for the environment that empowered Zimmerman to deem a child suspicious and threatening. Its proved deadly for Trayvon, Kimani Grey, Jordan Davis, and so many more young, Black boys.
Although Racial Profiling is stifling and damages everyone involved by breeding discontent; the good news is this can all change. In New York City, state-sanctioned racial profiling in the form of Stop & Frisk is being constantly contested. Unfortunately Mayor Bloomberg just vetoed another anti-stop-and-frisk bill a few weeks ago. The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and The Stop Mass Incarceration Network are just two organizations on the ground working on this issue that you can support. You can also download this handy app created by the NYCLU that empowers New Yorkers to know their rights and record instances of stop and frisk to hold the police accountable.
On the national level, the End Racial Profiling Act of 2013 was introduced to Congress by Maryland Senator Ben Cardin. The bill has been endorsed by over 50 civil rights organizations across the country and calls for the complete eradication of all laws based on racial profiling and mandatory police education surrounding the matter. They need your help getting this law passed. Congress has been ignoring it since 2001 but this cannot wait any longer. Call your representatives, sign this petition, host a teach-in and get active in your local ACLU chapter. Together we can help root out America’s dirty habit of racially profiling People of Color.
by Shannon Shird