Racial profiling: Topics for research papers

For your term paper in American law or civil law, some good research paper topics might be to tackle the subject of racial profiling.

A recent hot debate being discussed includes racial profiling. (Credit: Ruth Manuel-Logan, News One)

A recent hot debate being discussed includes racial profiling. (Credit: Ruth Manuel-Logan, News One)

What is racial profiling, how prevalent is it, who are the victims and how can we prevent racial profiling are all good topics for research papers.

What is racial profiling?

According to The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, racial profiling refers to the targeting of particular individuals based on race, ethnicity, national origin and religion by law enforcement authorities to stop, detain, question or subject such people to law enforcement activities based not on their behavior, but rather on their personal characteristics. Many people charge that the tragic shooting of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri was the result of racial profiling.

The immense frequency of black people being forced to pull their cars over by white policemen for no apparent traffic or vehicular violation has come to be called “driving while black.” But not only African-Americans are victims of racial profiling, any person of color, women, gays, Jews and other ethnic minorities can also be subject to profiling. Since the terrorist events of September 11, 2001, Middle Eastern and Muslim people have experienced higher scrutiny at airports and other locations.

Prevalence of racial profiling

Unfortunately, racial profiling is alive and well in the United States. It consists of a constant feeling of being under suspicion, under surveillance and posing a danger to others. “Every black person has their own story of racial profiling, especially black men. Any white person, not just police, engages in racial profiling when they suspect, avoid, follow, report or challenge a black person simply because of their race and their own idea of where black people ‘belong,’” commented Pastor Madison T. Shockley II in “My Family Has Been Racially Profiled Everywhere from Harvard to Our Own Home,” posted on Huffington Post August 28, 2014.

Not just young black men in hoodies

Racial profiling affects all people of color, not just the teenager in a hoodie walking the streets after midnight in a deep Southern state. A prominent case that made the news was that of Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., a civil rights activist, pre-eminent black scholar, Peabody Award winner and close friend of President Obama.

On July 16, 2009, Gates returned to his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, found his front door jammed and pried it open. A white neighbor called the Cambridge police who arrived at Gates’ home and demanded that he show proof of his residence. Gates did, then asked for the officer’s name and badge number, as is his right under Massachusetts law. The officer refused, Gates berated him for racial profiling, and Gates was arrested for disorderly conduct.

How do you determine what is racial profiling?

The debate of what actually is racial profiling rages on. “For liberal civil rights activists, Gates was a victim of racial profiling. For law-and-order conservatives, Gates is a pampered black elitist who played the race card against a hardworking cop who was just trying to do his job,” wrote Richard Thompson Ford in “The Depressing Cycle of Racial Accusation,” posted in Slate on July 23, 2009.

Ford explains that the police were simply responding to a 911 call of a possible burglary by a person described as black. That was not profiling. “The claim here is that once the police arrived, they treated Gates differently than they would have treated a white person in the same situation,” said Ford.

More racially diverse police

Critics say that one way to reduce racial profiling is to have a more racially diverse police force. New Jersey is one state that is taking steps forward in that direction. Of the 132 new cadets in the 2013 class for the State Police, 27 percent were Latinos and 17 percent were African-American. The move was in response to criticism by civil rights groups.

According to Anthony Campisi in the article “More Than Half of New State Police Cadets Are Minorities,” posted in the Bergen County Record April 23, 2013, “Civil rights groups have long decried the racial composition of the New Jersey State Police, which faced widespread allegations of racial profiling during motor vehicle stops in the 1990s and resulted in a federal monitor appointed to oversee state police activities through 2009. And a 2000 settlement with the New Jersey conference of the NAACP required the state police to step up recruitment of minority officers.”

Check out Questia’s library of Racial Profiling topics for more information.

What are some other ways to reduce racial profiling?

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