Racial Profiling 101: Behind Police Tactics

In 1942, over 120,000 Americans were stripped of their
businesses and their homes and incarcerated for the duration
of World War II. They had committed no offense. They were
convicted of no crime. They were suspected, subjected to
curfews, arrested, had their property confiscated and were
imprisoned because of the color of their skin and their
national origin or the national origin of their parents.
The internment of Japanese Americans in 1942 was an
egregious example of what can happen when skin color and
national origin are substituted for evidence and become, by
themselves, a basis for suspicion and punishment.
But it was not the only egregious example.

In 1942, over 120,000 Americans were stripped of their
businesses and their homes and incarcerated for the duration
of World War II. They had committed no offense. They were
convicted of no crime. They were suspected, subjected to
curfews, arrested, had their property confiscated and were
imprisoned because of the color of their skin and their
national origin or the national origin of their parents.
The internment of Japanese Americans in 1942 was an
egregious example of what can happen when skin color and
national origin are substituted for evidence and become, by
themselves, a basis for suspicion and punishment.
But it was not the only egregious example.

During the time
of the internment, Jim Crow laws and formal racial
segregation existed in the South and were so reified that
virtually no one could imagine it ending.
Today, the internment of U.S. citizens of Japanese descent
is nearly universally recognized as something shameful–an
act of war hysteria and racism. Similarly, few today are
prepared to defend the formality of Jim Crow laws.

But on highways and streets, in airports and at customs
checkpoints, skin color, irrespective of economic class, is
once again being used by law enforcement officials as a
cause for suspicion and a sufficient reason to violate
people’s rights.

Tool of Racist Repression
First of all, let’s establish right from the beginning that
racial profiling is and always has been just another racist,
repressive tool of the state to keep Black people and other
people of color oppressed, intimidated, in fear and always
in the midst of a potential frame-up.
This policy, like many other anti-people policies, has been
intensified in the past decade or so for various reasons.
One of the main reasons is to feed the ever-growing prison-
for-profit system.
Another is the fact that more and more people are coming
into political consciousness and seeing this rotten corrupt
system for what it is, and resisting it!
And this practice of profiling can serve as a subtle means
to divide us and leave us all vulnerable.
Racial profiling may be a relatively new term, but it’s
definitely an old concept. Tracey Maclin, a professor at
Boston University School of Law, says that the problem of
"driving while Black" can trace its historical roots to a
time in early U.S. society when court officials in cities
like Philadelphia permitted constables and ordinary citizens
the right to "take up" all Black persons seen "gadding
abroad" without their master’s permission.

And what are the consequences of racial profiling for
African Americans–or Asians, Arabs, Latinos–as a matter of
local, state or federal government practice?

1976: Supreme Court
Upholds Profiling

In 1976, the U.S. Supreme Court supported the actions of the
U.S. Border Patrol agents who selected cars for inspection
in Southern California partly on the basis that drivers were
of Mexican descent.
The Supreme Court maintained that since the intrusions by
the U.S. agents on selected drivers were "quite limited" and
only involved "a brief detention of travelers during which
all that is required … is a response to a brief question
or two and possibly the production of a document," the
practice was upheld.

And recently in upstate New York, the U.S. Court of Appeals
for the Second Circuit ruled that police officers did not
violate the Constitution when they stopped every Black man
in Oneonta on Sept. 4, 1992, after a white woman said she
had been attacked in her home by a young Black man.

The controversy surrounding racial profiling is intense. In
the national spotlight are two New Jersey state troopers,
John Hogan and James Kenna. They were indicted on Sept. 7,
1999, on attempted-murder and assault charges resulting from
a shooting during a routine traffic stop on the New Jersey
Turnpike in 1998 that left three of the four unarmed young
Black and Latino men involved seriously wounded.
The troopers were also indicted earlier that year on 19
misdemeanor charges of falsifying their activity logs to
conceal the disproportionate number of minority drivers they
were accused of stopping on the highway.
When you look at the disproportionate profiling of Blacks
and Latinos, you can clearly see that it equates Blacks with
crime, with wrong doings of some sort.
And in recent years, this guise has been the "War on Drugs,"
which is no more than a mass frame-up of African Americans
and other people of color.

The Real ‘Drug Dealers’
In the 1970s, when tons of heroin was being shipped from
Southeast Asia and brought into the United States, we saw
poor communities throughout the U.S. addicted to heroin.
This enabled the ruling class to further destabilize and
exploit African Americans and label them criminals. And this
gave the ruling class a political justification to wage war
against Black people.

But we know who the real drug dealers are. We know it’s this
U.S. government that makes arms deals and drug deals with
puppet governments set up by U.S. imperialism in Third World
countries. And we also know it’s the big U.S. banks that
launder the drug money.
But you and I are supposed to believe that Black youths are
somehow responsible for bringing drugs into this country.

I
read an article that was written in the 1980s that said that
at that time the drug trade was worth more than $300 billion
a year. So you know it’s worth a lot more than that by now.
But you and I are supposed to believe that somehow, over
$300 billion a year is coming through the projects within
the Black communities of this country. That’s absurd! It’s
insanity!

But, unfortunately, when this racial profiling and
stereotypical thinking starts to seep into the minds of our
working class–through fake cop shows and fabricated crime
statistics about Blacks and other people of color–this
becomes a real threat to our movement: It can divide us.
Because this whole issue of racial profiling, just like all
the other racist policies, reinforces white supremacist
ideology that is rooted in capitalist society.

That’s why
it’s imperative that white progressives come out in full
force against this policy.
Ultimately the police, as a force of repression against the
majority, must be eradicated along with the whole capitalist
state–branch and root!

[From a talk by Julius Dykes at a Buffalo, N.Y., Workers
World Party forum Sept. 16.]

Author: Julius Dykes

News Service: Workers World News Service

URL: http://www.workers.org

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