Racial Profiling: Local, national accounts of prejudice

December 15, 2018

“I've experienced racial profiling before. I would always go to the gas station that is right by my house to grab some snacks. One day there was a new white lady that worked there. We talked and everything, so we were good. When I went to go get my snacks, I turned around and I saw the lady out of her cash register area to come and watch me. I am pretty sure she thought that I was going to steal the items,” junior Elijah Payne said. 

 

According to business finance teacher and Black Empowerment Club (BEC) adviser Stephen Lewis, racial profiling is an action taken by a person or group of people towards another person or group of people based solely upon the ethnic characteristics and/or stereotypes associated with or about that person or group of people. 

 

Nationally, most cases of racial profiling reported follow white and black people. 

 

According to NBC news, also in October, a young black man living in St. Louis, Missouri was followed by a white woman in his apartment complex because she assumed that he didn’t live there. When he was filming her she said, "When I opened the door to the complex, you ran in,” assuming that he was trying to break in. When they got to his apartment, he showed her that he had the keys to the place. However, she still questioned his reason for being there and said, "This is my apartment, and you need to get out."

 

However, instances of racial profiling are not always limited to black and white conflict. Argentinian Spanish teacher Camilo Colotto experienced profiling based on assumptions about his nationality. 

 

“It usually happens in the airport; every time I would go through the security line, they would always take me to the side, away from everybody else and scan me even more than everyone else. It also happens when I am in the store and people hold on tight to their purses and keep their distance away from me,” Colotto said. 

 

On a smaller and more local scale, students and families in the community have had similar experiences. 

“Whenever I go to the grocery store and start speaking Spanish, people would always look at me up and down and walk away immediately because they were scared,” sophomore Lucia Garcia said.

 

Colotto has also felt the effects speaking a non-English language in public. 

 

“I've also experienced in public places like different stores. People just look at me differently and start acting up. Especially when I start speaking in a different language, people start to get up or move away. I can just tell that they were terrified, probably thinking that I could hurt them or steal something” Colotto said. 

 

When talking about racial profiling, there are two terms that people need to understand-- explicit and implicit profiling. According to Lewis, explicit racial profiling occurs when someone takes actions against another person or person, without provocation or cause, simply because of that person’s ethnic characteristics and/or stereotypes about the person or group. An example would be a black shopper in a store who is followed around throughout the store by someone else for no apparent reason.

 

The person following does not follow anyone else, nor offers any assistance. Implicit racial profiling is more difficult to detect because a person’s actions towards another, although without provocation or possible stereotype, are subtle and not so obvious. An example would be a black person walking down the street in one direction and a person walking towards them in the opposite direction decides to cross the street to avoid close proximity to the black person.

 

While it is important to look at each situation on an individual basis to avoid misunderstanding, there is still value in being aware of the instances of profiling not only nationally but locally. 

 

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