#WorkAgainstViolence: Racial Profiling and Hate Crimes

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#WorkAgainstViolence: Racial Profiling and Hate Crimes

By Donte Hilliard
Director of Mission Impact, YWCA USA

What would it take for us to experience just ONE Week Without Violence? What practice and policy changes would need to be implemented to make one Week Without Violence possible?

We know that not all violence is physical or visible. The YWCA seeks to educate the public about the full spectrum of violence that impacts the lives of women, girls, people of color and their communities. By referring to the “spectrum of violence,” we acknowledge that there are many types of violence in the world, and not all of these types of violence are acknowledged or responded to equally—especially as these forms of violence impact the lives of women, girls and people of color.

Today’s focus is on racial profiling and hate crimes. Triggered by media attention to several high profile cases of lives lost—Renisha McBride, Jordan Davis, Michael Brown, John Crawford—people across the United States, from all walks of life, have been engaged in serious conversations about the violence of racial profiling and police brutality.

Racial profiling refers to the practice of a law enforcement agent relying, to any degree, on race, ethnicity, religion or national origin in selecting which individuals to subject to routine or investigatory activities, such as traffic stops, searches, and seizures. African-Americans, Native Americans, Latinos, and Asians have reported being unfairly targeted by police. In many border-states and communities with high immigrant populations, law enforcement has been documented to use racial profiling as a method of border security and enforcement, which can have a chilling effect on immigrants and communities of color.

In the aftermath of September 11, Arabs, Muslims, South Asians, and Sikhs, and those who are perceived to be one or the other, have become hyper-aware of the ways in which law enforcement agents and agencies are using racist, Islamophobic stereotypes and bias to unjustly police, survey, scrutinize and detain them (particularly in airports).

Racial profiling is a common practice carried out by law enforcement conducting traffic and pedestrian stops. A U.S. Department of Justice report on police contacts with the public found that African Americans were 20% more likely than whites to be stopped and 50% more likely to have experienced more than one stop. This report also revealed that, although African Americans and Hispanics were more likely to be stopped and searched, they were less likely to be in possession of contraband. On average, searches and seizures of African American drivers yielded evidence only 8% of the time, searches and seizures of Hispanic drivers yielded evidence only 10% of the time, and searches and seizures of white drivers yielded evidence 17% of the time.

Shortly after taking office, President George W. Bush stated that racial profiling “is wrong, and we will end it in America.” Per his directive, the Department of Justice issued the Guidance Regarding the Use of Race by Federal Law Enforcement Agencies (“Guidance”) in June 2003. While the Guidance sought to eliminate racial profiling, it fell short of ensuring equal treatment under the law for all individuals in the United States. Recent coverage in The New York Times has suggested that Attorney General Eric Holder plans to make improvements to the Guidance. Proposed below are vitally needed revisions to the Guidance that many of the leaders in the Racial Justice and Civil Rights Community are calling for:

  1. Prohibition of profiling based on national origin or religion;
  2. Elimination of loopholes allowing for profiling in the national security and border contexts;
  3. Expansion of the ban on profiling to include law enforcement surveillance; and,
  4. Application of the Guidance to state and local law enforcement agencies that work with federal agents and/or receive federal funding, including enforcement mechanisms.

The YWCA USA supports legislation that bans the practice of racial profiling at the federal, state, and local levels. The YWCA firmly believes that all individuals, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, national origin or gender should be ensured justice and protected equally under the law. This includes policies that eradicate racial profiling, increase immigrant rights, retain and strengthen affirmative action, reduce hate crimes, and result in increased education on racism and its elimination.

Take Action: 

Tell Congress the time is now to end racial profiling—a problem that destroys American values of fairness and justice. Congress must take action and pass the End Racial Profiling Act this year. This bill requires that local law enforcement agencies receiving federal funds maintain adequate cultural competency policies and procedures for eliminating racial profiling.

Resources and Readings:

YWCA Week Without ViolenceThis post is part of the YWCA Week Without Violence™ 2014 Blog Carnival. We invite you to join the dialogue! Post your comment below, share your story and follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #workagainstviolence.