Social justice issues in America: Racial profiling and economic inequity

January 7, 2021

As we begin a new year, this column will turn its focus to social justice issues in America as it is recognized there are still some very serious social justice issues that must be addressed. Social justice issues can range from issues involving one’s race to inequality in education, healthcare and economic injustice, etc. Since America has a long history with race issues, this week, I will begin with racial profiling followed by a brief look at economic inequity.

Racial Profiling.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) defines racial profiling as discriminatory practice by law enforcement officials of targeting individuals for suspicion of crime based on the individual’s race, ethnicity, religion or nation origin.”1 Racial profiling is a longstanding and deeply troubling national problem despite claims that the U.S. has entered a post-racial era. Racial profiling occurs every day, in cities and towns across the country. Racial profiling is based on the false assumption that:

• People of color are most of the drug users and sellers.
• People of color commit “most” crime. This does not consider that corporate and white collar crimes are not investigated and prosecuted as seriously as “street crimes” even though they cost victims and taxpayers billions of dollars.2

Many who have not been racially profiled are of the opinion that it is nothing more than an urban myth. Racial profiling, according to a Boston Law Review3, has been used to encompass a wide array of topics, such as jury selection, enrollment at institutions of higher learning, disparities in the quality of public education and searches conducted on passengers at airport terminals. Racial profiling is real – and continues to cause resentment in communities in the U.S. where those who drive, shop or bicycle while black or brown or those who are profiled because of their religion are targeted. There must be a federal law that bans racial profiling so that all citizens of the U.S. are protected from these random acts of discrimination. Senate Bill 2355 – End Racial and Religious Profiling Act of 2019 was introduced to eliminate racial, religious and other discriminatory profiling by law enforcement and for other purposes is awaiting action by the Senate.

Economic Inequity.

A Yale report titled: “The Roots of Economic Inequality,” (Dec. 2018) noted the U.S. is divided by wealth and social class and the gap is widening. The report noted the economic inequality is rising despite the fact that most people agree things should be shared more equally. Yet, it is hard to change the systems that perpetuate the problem. Why? The study, as a whole, shows that even the mundane everyday beliefs and behaviors are contributing to rising inequality. What we wear and how we speak, for example, can determine whether an employer hires us or not, whether we succeed in networking or not. The report indicated that participants from across the U.S. successfully guessed a speaker’s social class hearing them speak just seven words, out of context. This is a real problem if a person is on a job interview or at a college admissions interview. Discrimination in these and many other areas can create the slippery slope of economic inequality.

Real change when it comes to racial profiling and economic inequity means a change in policy and procedures. In other words, if we are going to create a more just society, it means raising awareness of discriminatory practices towards certain groups of people as well as look at the roots of inequity by changing how people think about these issues and then make moves to address it.

1 ACLU, Racial Profiling: Definition. https://www.aclu.org/other/racial-profiling-definition
2 ACLU Racial Profiling Alert. https://www.aclu.org/sites/default/files/images/asset_upload_file664_34572.pdf
3 Boston Law Review, The Statistical Evidence of Racial Profiling in Traffic Stops and Searches, https://www.bc.edu/content/dam/files/schools/law/bclawreview/pdf/49_1/05_whitney_web.pdf

Next Week: Social Justice Issues In America (Mass Incarceration)

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